historic columbia river highway
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.
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…]
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.
“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).
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…]
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.
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.