historic columbia river highway

Sneak peek at new carfree section of Historic Columbia River Highway

Avatar by on July 24th, 2019 at 10:41 am

We cannot wait to ride this.
(Photos: ODOT)

In just 10 days, the Oregon Department of Transportation will tear the wrapping off a very impressive new section of the Historic Columbia River Highway. At 3.3 miles long, the $19 million project will leave us just five miles away from reconnecting this historic road that broke ground in 1916.

The new section begins just east of Cascade Locks and will provide walkers and rollers a carfree path around Shellrock Mountain. This has historically been the most unpleasant and dangerous gap in the entire Historic Highway where riders would have to pedal on a shoulder of Interstate 84 with people driving big trucks and RVs by at high speeds. The new path from Wyeth to Lindsey Creek will offer a much different experience.

A trail dedication event is scheduled for next Saturday August 3rd with a group bike ride led by Portland Bicycling Club leaving from Cascade Locks at 9:00 am. Unfortunately I’ll be out of town and can’t make it; but ODOT was kind enough to offer a few new photos for a sneak peek…

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Construction on the next piece of the puzzle — the Mitchell Point Crossing — is funded and set to begin next summer. After that, ODOT says there’s only 1.6 miles left to finally reconnect the entire 73-mile route between Troutdale and The Dalles. Learn more about the project here.

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

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3.3 mile section of Historic Columbia River Highway path set to open next month

Avatar by on July 15th, 2019 at 4:52 pm

The impressive new path can be seen on the left rising above I-84 east of Wyeth in this Google image from October 2018.

We are less than three weeks away from the opening of a new segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail: A 3.3 mile carfree path that offers stunning views of the Gorge. In fact, path users will have the opportunity to take in vistas that have been nearly impossible to see outside an automobile for over a century.
[Read more…]

State re-opens fire-damaged section of Historic Columbia River Highway

Avatar by on September 28th, 2018 at 10:20 am

Have at it.
(Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

A six-mile stretch of the popular Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail that was closed due to the Eagle Creek Fire on September 4th of last year has finally re-opened. The news comes as the Oregon Department of Transportation opens a comment period on how to reduce congestion in the Columbia River Gorge.[Read more…]

New rockslides delay reopening of Historic Columbia River Highway

Avatar by on August 3rd, 2018 at 9:06 am

Still from USFS video of rockslide above Historic Columbia River Highway in the Gorge.
(Watch video below)

Bummer news from the Oregon Department of Transportation: New rockslides have set back their plans to reopen six miles of the Historic Columbia River Highway that have been closed since last fall due to the Eagle Creek Fire.

The slides happened on the section of highway between Bridal Veil and Ainsworth State Park. As we reported last month, ODOT hoped to reopen that section of road with an experimental new lane configuration in September.

In a statement yesterday, ODOT Region 1 Manager Rian Windsheimer said, “This setback is a real disappointment to us. Our crews have been working hard to get these areas cleared. But there’s plenty to do before we can safely reopen the road.”

Video (below) of one of the slides near Horsetail Falls, taken by the US Forest Service, shows rocks rolling down a steep hill directly onto the highway.
[Read more…]

ODOT will create carfree lane on Historic Columbia River Highway when it reopens this fall

Avatar by on July 11th, 2018 at 10:15 am

Cross-section of ODOT’s “phased reopening” plan for the Historic Columbia River Highway.

“This is a great opportunity to try it and see how it operates.”
— Terra Lingley, ODOT Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Coordinator

They say when a fire strikes a forest it comes back even healthier than before. The same might be true for the Historic Columbia River Highway.

When a six-mile section of the scenic road reopens this fall following a one-year closure due to the Eagle Creek Fire, the Oregon Department of Transportation says it’ll have one fewer lane for automobile users. Referred to as the “phased reopening” plan, ODOT will limit automobile use to one lane in the eastbound direction for a five mile section between the Benson State Recreation Area/Hartman Pond (Exit 30) and Ainsworth State Park (Exit 35). The westbound lane will be set aside for walking, rolling, and emergency vehicles (see map graphic below).
[Read more…]

State warns about cycling closures and work zone conditions through Columbia Gorge – UPDATED

Avatar by on May 11th, 2018 at 9:17 am

(Map: Oregon State Parks)

UPDATE: This post has been edited to reflect the fact that the State of Oregon has not technically “closed” the gorge to bicycling. People on bikes are still allowed to use I-84 (legally, from NE 238th east); but should be advised of work zone conditions. We regret any confusion the initial story caused.

The combination of fire clean-up and construction of new paths (ironically) adjacent I-84 has led to a decision to prohibit bicycling warnings for bicycle users through a key segment of the Columbia River Gorge this summer.

An Oregon State Parks employee emailed us about the news last night and urged us to spread the word so that no one gets stuck. “What I have found is there is no way to ride through the Gorge this year — not even for those willing to ride on the shoulder I-84.”[Read more…]

A 30 year-old vision for a carfree Historic Columbia River Highway

Avatar by on April 11th, 2018 at 4:15 pm

Imagine a carfree Historic Columbia River Highway… like Dave Wechner did almost 30 years ago.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

There’s been a steady trickle of news here on BikePortland in recent years from agencies and advocates who see a future for carfree traveling in the Columbia River Gorge. But it turns out the idea isn’t as futuristic as you might think.
[Read more…]

Eagle Creek Fire/Historic Hwy update from ODOT

Avatar by on October 19th, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Taken from 10/12 Historic Columbia River Highway newsletter:

Eagle Creek Fire Update

As of October 11, according to the Eagle Creek Fire Incident managers, the fire has burned 48,831 acres and is 50 percent contained.

Cooler temperatures and rain will help reduce the potential for significant fire activity. The uncontained portion of the fire is in steep, inaccessible terrain and fire managers do not anticipate the wildfire will spread in these areas.

Falling trees and rocks punched through wooden railings and decorative rail along the Historic Highway. Rocks of varying sizes slid down slopes and off of steep hillsides. In many places, the rocks and trees line that the road and those in the distance are charred and likely weakened.

The fire removed vegetation, underbrush and tree roots that support the Columbia Gorge. We expect to see land and rock slides with additional rain.

ODOT crews and hired contractors continue to remove trees in danger of falling into the roadway, scale slopes to remove debris and rocks, and inspect structures.

The Historic Highway will remain closed until hazards have been removed and it is safe to open.

The wood lining and portal timbers inside of the Oneonta Tunnel caught fire, and there are concerns about heat-related damage to the structural shotcrete under the wood. The bluffs on either side of the tunnel continue to drop rocks, and our engineers have been unable to safely determine any additional structural damage.

Once we are able to safely access the inside of the structure and determine what restoration is needed, we will determine the cost to rehabilitate the wood and any additional damage and pursue funding to restore the tunnel.

Thank you for continuing to stay off the Historic Columbia River Highway and State Trail, as well as all the trails closed due to the Eagle Creek Fire.

“A pit in my stomach”: ODOT official shares latest on fire damage to Historic Columbia River Hwy

Avatar by on September 7th, 2017 at 9:34 am

The beautiful Oneonta Tunnel that just re-opened to biking and walking in 2009 isn’t looking so good right now.
(Photo: ODOT)

The Eagle Creek Fire is still raging in the Gorge and we’ve been reaching out to sources to find out how much impact it has had on the Historic Columbia River Highway and State Trail. Just one year ago we joined a big group of riders and dignitaries for a triumphant centennial celebration of the legendary road. And today it feels like it’ll be another hundred years before things are back to normal.

The good news is not all has been lost. Reports yesterday from fire officials were heartening. But what about those pictures of our dear Oneonta Tunnel engulfed in flames?! We’ve been as eager as you to know more.

This morning I heard back from Kristen Stallman, the outgoing Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Transportation. Stallman has worked on the Historic Highway project for years and her connection to it transcends her job title. Here’s what she had to say about where things stand today (emphases mine): [Read more…]

Not so fast e-bike riders: Motors aren’t allowed on bike paths in Oregon State Parks

Avatar by on July 6th, 2017 at 1:32 pm

Policymakers Ride - Gorge Edition-57

Riders on the Historic Columbia River State Trail.
(Photos: J. Maus/BikePortland)

Last week we posted a story about how electric bicycles have opened up new riding opportunities in the Columbia River Gorge. But it turns out it’s illegal to ride an e-bike on the Historic Columbia River State Trail — or on any other paved bike path within the Oregon State Parks system.

We’ve since updated that story with a note after learning about the issue from a commenter (Park Chambers, who happens to own Fat Tire Farm and Hood River Bikes) and then confirming the facts in a phone call with an Oregon State Parks spokesperson.

This prohibition of e-bikes on paved trails caught me off-guard. As pedal-assisted bikes gain in popularity, I think the issue merits a closer look.
[Read more…]