The State of Oregon is inching ever closer to re-connecting the Historic Columbia River Highway — an engineering marvel that opened 100 years ago this year but fell into disrepair when Interstate 84 was built.
On Saturday the Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon State Parks, the U.S. Forest Service and Western Federal Lands will come together to dedicate the latest new piece of the state trail that will eventually connect Troutdale to The Dalles.
This latest segment is a 1.2 mile off-highway path that goes from Lindsey Creek to Starvation Creek. The new path includes a new trailhead parking area, a new bridge over Warren Creek and a waterfall viewing area.
Here’s a shot of the Warren Creek Bridge (photo by Friends of the Historic Columbia River Highway)
At Saturday’s event there will be five stations where visitors can learn about project details from agency staffers and meet Peg Willis and Laura O. Foster, authors of books about the Gorge.
The Friends of the Historic Columbia River Highway are encouraging attendees to bike to the event because Saturday also happens to be National Bike Your Park Day.
ODOT is nearly three decades into this project which has now restored 68 of the 73 miles of the original historic highway.
The next segment of the path currently in development and expected to begin construction this winter is from Wyeth to Lindsey Creek. Only a few miles remain but they will be the most difficult ones to complete. The state estimates a cost of about $30 million to reconnect the path around Shellrock Mountain and over the Summit Creek Viaduct.
At the centennial celebration in June former Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski urged lawmakers and advocates to get it done. When completed, the historic highway and state trail will be, “one of the most unique, long-term and attractive cycling experiences in the United States.”
Learn more about the project at ODOT’s website.
— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – email@example.com
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This has been open for a while, right? Just not officially completed? I think I’ve ridden it.
Also: that one stairway, ugh.
no. this is new. and it’s an island without connections to other parts of the path … unless you rode on the shoulder of I-84… Construction started back in March.
The shoulder of I-84 is like a 12 foot wide bike lane …
But I didn’t have to ride on I84 to get to Bridge of the Gods. So I’m confused.
You rode on a different section of the trail… From the stairs-related groan, sounds like you rode near Eagle Creek. And you also probably rode the recently completed John B. Yeon section. This newest section at Starvation Creek is even further east, past Cascade Locks.
Where is this in relation to that horrible corner between CL and HR? (the right hand bend with the cement wall a foot to your right and the semi-trucks 2 feet to your left). I know that would likely be one of the hardest sections to build a path through, but that’s the main reason I’ll never ride to Hood River again. One time only.
That said, kudos to ODOT for starting the process of connecting the missing sections. It’s still going to be a while, but once it’s done I’ll certainly be doing multiple trips between Thunder Island brewing and various breweries in Hood River, spending some tourist dollars.
If, and somewhat unfathomably it’s still a big if….Cascade Locks figures it out and sends Nestle packing. Otherwise I’m spending nowt out there.
–of course I’m speaking for myself here–
There’s always Lolo Pass!
I believe you’re talking about the walls at Shellrock Mountain… The next section to be completed in 2018 will take care of that for you! The planned trail segment goes up behind the bin wall and gives you an up close view of the historic wall used to protect the old highway from falling rocks. You can also get a glimpse way up the hillside of the wagon road that was cut into the talus slope. It’s really cool.
This looks like very nice work, I can’t wait to check it out! I would love to ride from Portland/Troutdale to Hood River on this route, and I will definitely check it out when it opens. I hope they can figure out some way to limit car access, though. It is currently not really working for anyone. Cars get lured out there only to sit in a traffic jam, find no parking, park illegally and get towed- It may be better to simply have no parking at the trailheads during the summer and then up the shuttles. The shuttles would have to take dogs for this to work, IMO. Maybe they could make it a one-way for cars, though I suspect there would need to be physical barrier to keep people from using the bike half of the road for passing. It will be interesting to see how this evolves as the trail nears completion. From what I saw this summer, there would be no way to bike this safely without sitting in giant traffic jam.
I also wonder how much faster this could be completed if they didn’t keep putting parking lots in as they went. Do we always have to cater to the car-bound?
Considering that cycling infrastructure is most often leveraged off of roads built for cars, I would say you can continue to expect that there will be some amenities for cars.
Roads were built for cars? What did we do before 1910? (or 1900, pick your date)
The roads were built for horsecars!
Agreed. In peak-season at the very least, the Historic Highway should be closed to vehicles. The traffic tailbacks at Multnomah Falls are legendary (several miles long), and impossible to bike around due to the narrow nature of the road. To call it a bikeway is ridiculous.
The Grand Canyon offers free hop-on, hop-off shuttles along South Rim, and the shuttles are the only way to access many of the trailheads.
I can’t believe it’s 2016, and this beautiful little road is still essentially functioning as a freeway.
While I hate riding that road during peak season, I don’t think it should be closed. Why?
There are thousands and thousands of people using it during that time…and you want to deny them their happiness for the sake of maybe 200 cyclists a day? If that?
Fair point, but that road not actually serving them very well since there is no place to drive or park. Do you think increased shuttle service and/or changing the road to one-way would still serve those people? Could these changes serve them better? What else can we do to connect people with recreation that will alleviate the horrible traffic jams, lack of parking?
Completely agree with the shuttle aspect. I found the suggestion about shutting it down to cars to be ludicrous, though.
Most of them are driving it to reach two destinations – Crown Point, and Multnimah Falls.
If they want to visit Multnimah Falls, they should exit off the freeway to the island parking lot.
That was not my experience this past summer. On a weekday, the historic highway west of Multnomah falls was a complete parking lot in both directions. People in cars were waiting for parking at all the falls and trailheads. There was a dozen or more tow trucks moving cars that had parked illegally. In my opinion and experience, the road as configured cannot handle the demand. I think charging for parking, expanding the shuttle, and maybe making it one-way travel for cars could be a huge help.
I wish I’d seen tow trucks. There weren’t any. I posted a vid showing one of the backups in a bikeportland post a few weeks back.
I guess “crown point to mult falls” could explain the traffic, but I really think it’s people who are getting around the I-84 lot being full.
NO. Not even close. every time I ride that route the parking at nearly all of the locations is pretty much full. It certainly backs up at Multnomah Falls and sometimes at Crown Pt, but there are usually cars parked all along the side of the road anywhere near one of the trailheads or waterfalls.
$30,000,000? Yet crash corner in Raleigh Hills remains without funding to make it safe?
It’s not clear in the article, but my understanding is that the last and most difficult section of the HCRH rebuild is still unfunded.
Well, if they hadn’t demolished the Historic River Highway in the first place, ODOT wouldn’t have to be pointing up tens of millions now!
(Pumps fist) Yes! It’s only a mile-plus, but it’s progress, people. There really should be three parking lots for cars: One in Troutdale, one in Hood River, and one about halfway between them. This really should be extended to Pendleton at least. Getting this section connected to the rest of the corridor at each end should be a must. More parking / camping sites for bike / ped traffic inside the corridor would make sense.
This is progress, but it’s still in the middle of the Mitchell Point segment, and thus isolated from the outside, right? So it’s a piece of the puzzle, but not terribly useful in and of itself yet. Eagerly awaiting the day when you can finally ride from Wyeth to Hood River without getting on the freeway.
Does anyone know where the parking is for this segment? Would like to take my 7 year old out there and do it.
Take I-84 to the Starvation Creek Trailhead exit. Unless you are a 0.01% fearless rider who is comfortable riding on the 4′ I-84 shoulder around the bend at Shellrock Mountain, I would recommend carpooling to the trailhead until the next trail segment is complete.
Construction of the trail segment that will get you from Wyeth (east of Cascade Locks) to Starvation Creek begins next spring and will take a couple of years because it involves blasting and building viaducts. It’s going to be amazing!!
Can we count on the Multnomah Falls section of the HCRH also being awesome by 2019?
I really really really would like to bike that section, but I never have, largely because you folks at ODOT don’t control the speed of cars and as a result it has “blind corners” where a car driver can easily kill you if theyre operating at the posted speed limit.
It sucks, because it’s a very pretty section of highway. With a lot of potential as a bicycle touring route.
I’ve been rear-ended once on my bike by a car, and barely lived to tell the story. Since that incident, I actively avoid locations where I’m only a whisker from death on my bicycle.
Do we have any plans from ODOT on this? Maybe it’s time for a follow-up guest post. http://bikeportland.org/2013/05/16/guest-article-an-update-from-odot-on-the-historic-columbia-river-highway-86833
Thanks in advance,
Ted Buehler, avid bicyclist who has lived in Oregon for 7 years and never been brave enough to ride the HCRH. And who is currently dropping my annual allotment of tourism dollars in Euros.
(And apologies for thread-jacking).
Don’t forget to send us a postcard rom Europe!
You’re not a real cyclist unless you ride there…and force your kid to do it also.
“When completed, the historic highway and state trail will be, “one of the most… …attractive cycling experiences in the United States.”
Really? Is the U.S. really that pathetic?
I’ve been bike touring in Europe for the past 7 weeks, and 95% of my mileage has been on routes that exceed the Historic Highway in attractiveness and length. Maybe not “uniqueness” of scenery. But, despite the unique scenery I can’t say as I’ve ever really had much desire to bike that skinny, blind-corner ridden road with unrealistically high speed limits for cars. It’s one of the few stretches of non-freeway roadway in the state where pedestrians are banned because ODOT has built and operates a facility where you’d get killed if you tried to actually walk on it.
Someone needs to take ODOT’s PR department to the cleaners for that quote. Maybe we will…
Ted, 1790 km into a 2000 km ride, in Vilnius Lithuania.
BTW, I’m in full support of ODOT moving forward on this, piece by piece.
But, let’s be realistic. Since they refuse to address the problems of active transportation users on the existing segments, the existing state of management at ODOT isn’t going to magically create a premier facility when the last mile is completed.
I’ve tried to steer them in the right direction with a kindly written letter in 2013 asking for “Bikes may use full lane” signs, which was firmly declined as not appropriate and not needed.
I encourage everyone to write ODOT and tell them you want to see management and signage of the road changed to meet former Gov Kulo gowski’s declaration. If you’ve been on better bikeways in the U.S., cite them, and in concrete terms explain why their management and operation of the *existing* segments falls short. The more letters they get from unique individuals, the more likely they are to change.
(And, if so inclined, give them kudos for something, too, like finishing this piece.)
Squeaky wheel gets the grease, folks.
“If you’ve been on better bikeways in the U.S., cite them, and in concrete terms explain why their management…”
That is, say “hey, I’ve ridden on the such-and-such bike-way, in W state/region and it was better and safer than the Historic Gorge Highway because of XYZ. I really want the gorge highway to be better for me to ride a bike and try be the kind of faculty former gov Kulongowski promised — can you please
* cut the speed limit
* make it one way for cars
* add “Bikes may use full lane” signs
etc so the gorge highway actually compares favorably to other scenic bikeways in the U.S.?”
(Typing from iPhone, hope it’s not too disjointed).
The “bikes may use full lane” signs don’t work on Clinton Street, what makes you think they will work on a state highway?
Have they not helped at all on Clintn?
And, even if they didn’t, they might help on a state highway. They’re kinda hidden by trees and clutter on Clinton.
At any rate, baby-steps taken from multiple directions is often the only way to achieve major change.
Ted…remember that the ODoT PR folks do not bicycle tour in Europe or even Oregon…so their PR facility sample size is what it is…
““When completed, the historic highway and state trail will be, “one of the most… …attractive cycling experiences in the United States.”
Really? Is the U.S. really that pathetic?
I’ve been bike touring in Europe for the past 7 weeks, …” buehler
Geeze, buehler…do you really have to be that short sighted and crabby? Lucky you…you get to goof around visiting great bike routes in Europe, not just for days, but for weeks on end. As if everyone here in humble pie Oregon can do the same when they want a great biking experience.
I’m so glad people are taking an interest in keeping the Columbia Gorge, and its signature, classically designed highway from falling into abuse and disrepair. Years ago, I rode the historic highway from Troutdale Multnomah Falls…as far at that time, as the road was open. Nice ride, not too much motor vehicle traffic. Then, we rode on to Hood River, on the aforementioned highway shoulder…a nightmare from any sane person’s wildest dreams. Let me tell you…that experience will put a whole lot more hair on your chest, if you don’t wind up dead from having exposed yourself to it.
The Columbia Gorge is magnificent, with the potential of offering a multi-sensory experience to all who bother to experience by means other than the big, fast asphalt wasteland of I-84. Hiking in the gorge is excellent, but biking through it on the beautifully scenic, quiet old highway will eventually when it’s completed, easily come in second, I think. The highway long ago, used to have a bunch of road houses…places to eat and stay overnight. Most went away with the I-84 coming to the fore. Bike touring the old scenic highway could be a huge opportunity for a return of those businesses, not to mention a great service to people biking the road.
Driving I-84 through the gorge is just disgusting, as is that highway itself, and I’ve always hated the experience. Some of the things humanity does for commerce…and other reasons…are so sad. The Dalles Dam is another dubious choice made long ago, that profoundly affected the Columbia Gorge.
wsbob, I’m not trying to be a downer, just stating facts. Maybe over-dramatized facts, but ultimately simple facts.
And, I might add, I spend considerable amount of my personal time and resources trying to make Oregon a better place to bike. I’m trying pretty hard to change these facts.
My take is that a significant component to why people in Oregon “need to eat humble pie” is simply that we haven’t *asked* for excellent bicycling facilities. Let’s change this lack of requesting, and then the facts will change too, and I’ll happily join you on a ride on the HCRH.
That trail is still 90% “bikes on road”.
And with the exception of the Multnomah Falls area on a busy day, it works pretty well.
It’s to be expected when one cycles on a busy road.
I want that road not to be busy with cars. As it stands now, I will never ride on this trail if it means riding on the shoulder of a highway.
Beat you by a technicality: HCRH doesn’t have a shoulder.
“Bikes on Road” does not make a world class riding opportunity. I want to ride with my family.
Springwater corridor 🙂
Talked to a non-biking coworker about the HCRH recently, and she basically said ‘anyone riding there is just asking for it’.
I’ve only ridden the car-free segments myself so I have no idea what the rest of it is like.
Ask her about cyclists on any other road in town. No doubt they’re all asking for it.
I propose the answer is more cyclists riding further into the road; Perhaps a coordinated and prolonged effort by a group of cyclists. Turn it into the road that nobody wants to drive on.
Dan — that’s a very good anecdote to send in to ODOT if you want to ask for better management of the existing road. Ted
I’ve ridden the car-filled sections quite a few times and never had issues. Your coworker sounds like a lovely human being…
I think she’s a pretty typical non-cycling driver.
I wonder if she says the same thing about women that wear short dresses.
Do you think a mom, dad, and their six and nine year old kids biking on it would “never have issues” either?
The HRH to Multnomah Falls is for the fearless rider only. It should be for families and people of all ages / abilities. To call it a “world class bikeway” as ODOT does is just… bizarre.
I didn’t say that. I consider myself “strong and confident” but not fearless.
I would not ride it with my children.
ODOT is full of it.
How many kids are biking to Hood River?
I am excited to try out this improving bikeway facility (thanks ODoT and Oregon taxpayers).
Now it is way more relaxing to bike along it and spend my Washington Greenback being a tourist there vs. the really scary Oregon Coast in peak season rides I used to take.
I hopped Columbia Gorge Express (http://columbiagorgeexpress.com) and rode the stretch from Multnomah Falls to Starvation Creek 10 days ago. Of course much of the ride was freeway shoulder, but construction was nearly complete on the new path near Starvation Creek. That was a good day.
Agreed, ODOT must not be familiar with the Rails to Trails conservancy. Many, not all, are much better for a destination ride and much longer in length.
Well, for what it’s worth they finally have a shuttle between Gateway TC and Rooster Rock and Multnomah Falls. A small start. Man Oregon really needs to figure this stuff out. The sheer amount of tourism revenue generated from the gorge scenic area is huge and far exceeds that of the costs of such services. They need to make this shuttle more robust and accommodating to hikers and sightseers so as to make the gorge a world class tourist destination.
I can’t believe Multnomah Falls doesn’t charge for parking. I actually don’t believe the Gorge generates much tourism revenue in the grand scheme of things.
It’s a bunch of waterfalls with free parking. Selling a couple thousand ice-creams a week from one vendor concession stand is hardly bringing in the big bucks.
Charge ten bucks for parking and plough that back into the economy. And before you ridicule it, Washington State charges that for their daily Discover Pass, and those parking lots are consistently full.
Charge $10 for parking and use it to fund expanded shuttle service. Keep raising the price until the congestion stops.
Only if we can name the shuttle the “shoupbus”.
How do you plow taxes into the economy? Direct the money to rebuild the road.
And since it is the car drivers that are paying the fee, that would go to better roads for more car travel.
But I think we are underestimating the ability to do more on that road. there are a lot of geological limitations.
“…I actually don’t believe the Gorge generates much tourism revenue in the grand scheme of things.
It’s a bunch of waterfalls with free parking. …” adam
A diminutive description like this, of the Columbia Gorge, vastly understates its major geological, natural character and scenic significance. The Gorge likely is known for this significance, at least nationwide, and probably worldwide, somewhat. Impression I’ve consistently gotten over many years, is that when visitors out of state, or from other countries, come to visit Oregon and Portland, The Columbia River Gorge, and Multnomah Falls, are a key destination.
The Columbia Gorge extends all the way to The Dalles, on both the Oregon and Washington sides of the Columbia River. Dramatically scenic and beautiful, in its entirety, with quite an extraordinary range of difference in environment over this distance.
Emphasis on managing infrastructure to handle growing numbers of people coming to visit the Columbia Gorge, seems to be increasingly important. Decades ago, it became apparent that the original highway wasn’t sufficient to handle, traveling by motor vehicle, either the hoped for and anticipated commerce from across the state, traveling through the gorge, or the numbers of people coming to the gorge for its recreational and scenic opportunities. And so, the old highway was relegated to obsolescence and disrepair, a decision since reconsidered and wisely reversed, to allow the gorge to regain some of the function to people that the original highway was designed to offer them.
Charging for parking at the Multnomah Falls parking lot would be ok, I suppose. Expanding the shuttle service may be a good idea. A rail line goes right by the Falls. I realize there are complications to resolve, but passenger service to the Falls, and other points along the Gorge, seem like an objective worth pursuing as a means of making it possible for people to more easily visit the Gorge, as well as reversing the need for so much motor vehicle parking space.
seems to be a lot of people commenting on the rideability of the gorge highway/path who haven’t actually ridden it.
Agreed. Similar to how everyone who says we don’t need a new bridge over the Columbia River. I doubt they are ever in that traffic.
“seems to be a lot of people commenting on the rideability of the gorge highway/path who haven’t actually ridden it.”
That’s right. I’ve driven it numerous times, and every time I go “NFW would I ever ride there!”
I have ridden everything between Multnomah Falls and Wyeth though. That’s some nice riding. If only there were a safe route to this stretch from the outside world (other than the shuttle, which I hope to try next year).
I used the shuttle once to reach the start of a two-night backpacking trip up Horsetail Creek. There were two backpackers on the bus and nobody used the triple bike rack. The bus was full though.
Wow. 1.2 miles. When bike and walking stuff us built, the pace could be compared to the third world. When car stuff is built, the newspaper gushes on how quickly and ahead of schedule it’s built. Yawn.
“Really? Is the U.S. really that pathetic?”
On retrospect, as was pointed out by FourKnees, the U.S. is *not* that pathetic.
Sorry about being unnecessarily bombastic.
There are many routes, mostly rails to trails, which already far exceed the quality of the expected historic highway. Lots of great places to ride bikes, on multi day trips, on car free or neatly car free routes. With kids.
Like the C&O Trail, completed a couple years ago.
Probably others, too, maybe not of the same distance and magnitude, but in the same general recreational/sightseeing quality. Certainly a lot in Minnesota and Wisconsin where I grew up that are 30+ miles, maybe some have been strung together now into 100+ mile scenic bikeways.
The Gorge Highway as a whole has the potential to be like this if, for instance, it was made one-way for cars through the most popular sections. Or had other mitigation done to make it safe and comfortable for families with kids.
— looking forward to being back in Portland and doing some postcard tabling to get support for better bikeways in Oregon…
Ted…I hear you…here, and in your response to my earlier comment.
The Historic Columbia River Highway has an interesting history. In one sense, it’s kind of lucky that it was superseded by the big ugly gash through the gorge that I-84 is, because that allowed the old highway and its route, distanced from the new highway, to go to sleep for many years, allowing it to avoid the impact of the huge crush of commercial traffic 84 has been obliged to bear…including, need we say, convoys of garbage trucks from Portland, everyday, out to Arlington.
From the old days of the old highway, people took up residence along the old highway up to I believe, Multnomah Falls. So that part of the highway likely will have to remain open to use with motor vehicles. I’m not sure really, but I’ve generally been under the impression that the old highway east of the Falls, all the way to Hood River, (maybe to The Dalles too? Don’t know.), is closed to motor vehicle use…and should probably remain that way, maximizing its potential as a recreational route for biking and walking, free of motor vehicle use.
Rails to trail routes here in Oregon are great…but the Columbia River Gorge, on both sides of the river, is truly unique, on a world class scale. It’s very important not to lose sight of that significance.