Published 08/05/2019 at 5:53 AM PDT
By OREGON TRAVEL DAILY STAFF
(Hood River, Oregon) – An old road along the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge has new life. This week, the newest segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail opened up – a three-mile section that meanders between Cascade Locks and Hood River, stretching from Wyeth to Lindsey Creek. With biking and hiking in mind, the once-crumbled road is even more scenic and accessible.
Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), State Historic Preservation Office, Hood River County, the U.S. Forest Service and Travel Oregon worked together on the project.
The original Columbia River Highway began construction in 1913 and was finished in 1922. By the ‘60s, however, it was slowly replaced by Interstate 84, where parts of the old road were literally destroyed and even left buried. The passage of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Act in 1986 motivated the Oregon State Legislature to commit to restore the entire Historic Highway to its glory days of the 1920s.
Restoration of the highway initially started with removing rock from the Mosier Twin Tunnels, taking several months. Almost from the start, interesting surprises were unearthed, including graffiti dating back to 1921 when some drivers were stuck there in a snowstorm for a few days. You can still make very old finds along the way in the new trail.
Slowly, this lost treasure of Oregon became found, and there are still five more challenging miles to go. This new portion of the State Trail is furthering efforts to restore all 73 miles of the Historic Columbia River Highway from Troutdale to The Dalles. Some segments will be accessible to cars and cyclists, while other segments, known as the Historic Highway State Trail and managed by OPRD, will be accessible only by people walking, rolling or biking.
On the west of this recently-opened trail, it connects to all existing trail segments linking Starvation Creek and Viento State Park, creating six miles of trails with no cars.
“What we have now is a set of day hikes and bike rides through the Gorge,” said Arthur Babitz, chair of the Historic Columbia River Highway Advisory Committee and former mayor of Hood River. “Each of the sections of the Historic Highway that have been restored so far have been extremely popular. But when you connect them all together, it will be transformative, creating a world-class destination for multi-day trips. This is a situation where the whole is really greater than a sum of its parts.”
This new Wyeth to Lindsey Creek portion of the trail is a small piece of the entire 73 miles of the Historic Columbia River Highway going from Troutdale to The Dalles. Some segments will available to cars and bike riders, while others will be open to only foot traffic, bikes or other means of rolling along. Those sections are known as the Historic Highway State Trail and will be managed by OPRD.
So far, 68 of the original 73 miles are connected together, leaving the last five miles to go – a section that runs between Viento State Park and Hood River. Once all is completed, Travel Oregon expects the scenic route to bring in visitors from around the world, both on bike and on foot. In between the quaint towns of The Gorge, there are epic waterfalls, stunning vistas and atmospheric basalt tunnels to zip through.
Todd Davidson, Travel Oregon CEO, said it’s a treasure for Oregon residents and visitors.
“These world-class infrastructure projects enhance the Oregon experience and positively impact the economies in the communities surrounding the trail,” he said.
See a full map of the trail and old highway here.
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