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Rock slide on Rowena Curves closes Historic Highway for up to 3 weeks

Posted by on May 9th, 2017 at 9:26 am

Yikes! ODOT says it could be up to three weeks before the road opens.
(Photo: ODOT)

A major rock slide has closed a popular bicycling route just east of the Rowena Curves overlook on the Historic Columbia River Highway (US 30). It happened Sunday evening and there were no injuries.

The Rowena Curves are between Hood River and The Dalles.

Here’s the latest from ODOT:

“The overlook area is open to traffic from the west end. After further investigation from our ODOT geologist, the slide area is very unstable and will take a combination of rock scaling and rock bolting to make the area safe for public. We will continue to perform additional investigation and develop a repair plan tomorrow. The preliminary estimate for completing all the repair work is 2 – 3 weeks. The slide area is about 200 feet in length and the rock face is about 150’ high. There is approximately 700 cubic yards (70 – dump truck loads) of rock debris on the highway… In the meantime, the historic highway remains closed to all vehicles, including bicycles, and hikers in the vicinity of the slide.”

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The iconic Rowena Curves are a frequent star of bicycle routes and with the spring riding season in full swing, this closure comes at an unfortunate time. Hopefully ODOT crews can safely clear the slide. We’ll update this post with a precise map of the closure location and any updates about when the road will re-open. For now, please alter your routes and avoid this area. ODOT says it’s very unsafe and they do not want any bicycle riders trying to squeeze by — even if it seems passable.

UPDATE: Here’s a photo of mine I’ve edited to show where the slide occurred:

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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16 Comments
  • Monkey see May 9, 2017 at 10:16 am

    Whoa.

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  • KristenT May 9, 2017 at 10:51 am

    It’s a good thing the Gorge Roubaix already happened! Bummed the road is closed, it’s a beautiful climb from The Dalles side.

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  • Middle of the Road Guy May 9, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Was just there last Saturday! Whew!

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    • Tim May 11, 2017 at 2:10 pm

      Rode this last Sunday too. One of my best rides ever. Perfect weather, green hills, snow capped mountains, and wildflowers extreme.

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  • Kyle Banerjee May 9, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Unless they’re working weekends or at least having people watch the area (I’m guessing they’re not), this is fabulous for people who like to to ride areas like this.

    With the proviso that slide areas can be unstable so evaluation of specific conditions is necessary, climbing through slides and washes can be safer than riding the roads under normal conditions and getting to ride roads fully blocked to car traffic is a dream. I’m bummed that I have to go out of town this weekend.

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    • Champs May 9, 2017 at 11:50 am

      I’m with you on the open roads, but less tempted to challenge an unstable site full of lethal boulders wearing clickety-clack Sidis.

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      • Kyle Banerjee May 9, 2017 at 12:01 pm

        I have yet to encounter something I can’t get through, and this doesn’t look bad at all. Having said that, those even considering it need to be aware of the ramifications of duckwalking shoes and cycling attire in stuff they’re likely to slip at least a few times in.

        It definitely shouldn’t be attempted by anyone concerned about scuffing themselves or their gear up as that is very probable.

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        • Pat Lowell May 9, 2017 at 12:29 pm

          I normally agree with your comments, but this time – nope! Walking over the slide debris, it looks like you’d be about level with the height of the railing. Getting hit by more sliding rocks and falling over the side is going to leave a bit more than a scuff.

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          • Pete May 9, 2017 at 2:37 pm

            Not to mention all the poison oak that’s lining the side of that hill…

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        • Mossby Pomegranate May 9, 2017 at 7:42 pm

          Incredibly irresponsible. Please don’t put other peoples lives at risk with your activities.

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          • Kyle Banerjee May 10, 2017 at 10:53 am

            I would never do that. I take all threats seriously and never do anything that I think risks requiring assistance. Even assuming assistance can be had and that you’ll eventually be OK (both bad assumptions), needing help even once loses your privileges because no one who’s any good goes out with someone seen as a liability.

            When I made the suggestion, I was assuming going there when there are no people at all so no one would ever know. I always get all the information I can, but ultimately make all judgments myself and change the plan as circumstances dictate. To paraphrase Inspector Clouseau, I believe everything, and I believe nothing.

            Don’t worry, I won’t go there since I see even suggesting checking it out has been a source of aggravation and I have no desire to cause trouble. Plus, I’m seeing better opportunities elsewhere.

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    • Jessica Horning May 9, 2017 at 2:07 pm

      Please, please, PLEASE do not do this!
      A) The area is unstable and there are 8′ boulders coming off the cliff face. Not Safe!
      B) There will be crews working hard in this area until it is cleaned up and it makes it very difficult to advocate for work crews to make special accommodations for bikes through work zones when they repeatedly witness people on bikes ignoring basic instructional signage and common sense. Please try to be a good ambassador for the cycling community.

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  • Pete May 9, 2017 at 11:54 am

    It was a matter of time. I’ve had scree from that section come off in front of me while descending before. Instinct has to tell you whether to hit the brakes or the ‘gas’, cuz there’s no time for logic!

    And thanks for the ‘heads-up’, Jonathan! This is such a key connector to the east – guess folks will have to take State to Sevenmile and get their climbing legs on.

    Cherry Ride just went through there; not sure when ‘Friends’ has their organized ride… sadly this won’t get in the way of the now-defunct Mt. Hood Classic. 🙁

    Good place to keep apprised of the situation: http://thegorgeismygym.com/forecast/

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  • Reid Hatch May 9, 2017 at 11:56 am

    Holy Smokes, a friend and I rode that on Saturday. The pitted and scarred roadway has always made me nervous. Incredible

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  • Champs May 9, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    Lucky thing this isn’t PBOT, gravel, or a bikeway, because then we wouldn’t be talking weeks.

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  • AubieTheTiger May 30, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    Has the Columbia River Highway bikeway reopened yet? (May 30, 2017) I’m scheduled for a ride there in a few weeks!

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