For cyclists, a historic route awaits

Terry Richard / The Oregonian /


Published Sep 18, 2013 at 05:00AM / Updated Nov 19, 2013 at 12:31AM

CASCADE LOCKS — Cyclists will soon have a new recreation option after a missing link in the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail opens west of Cascade Locks. The section will be fully useable after Oct. 31.

Scot Sullenger, who owns the Cascade Motel in Cascade Locks, thinks it could be a perfect weekend outing from Portland. In fact, he plans to do it in reverse himself.

This is how it will work. For the first time since the construction of Interstate 84 in the 1960s, there will be an alternative route between Troutdale and Cascade Locks without the need for using any part of the freeway.

The old scenic Columbia River Highway, which was fully open by 1922, was partially destroyed or abandoned as I-84 was built. The new 1.6-mile McCord Creek Bridge replaces one of the lost sections.

The $8.1 million project has brought a bicycle/pedestrian path to the previously missing section: between John B. Yeon State Scenic Corridor on the west and the Bonneville Dam exit to the east.

Sullenger plans to ride his bike with his wife from Cascade Locks to Troutdale, spend one night at McMenamins Edgefield in Troutdale, then ride back to Cascade Locks the next day.

The distance is 34 miles, with a climb over 733-foot high Crown Point. Cyclists will need to share part of the old highway with vehicles (an average of 2,200 per day), but won’t need to ride on I-84 where 21,000 are counted daily.

In addition to the Cascade Motel, other lodging opportunities in Cascade Locks include the Best Western Columbia River Inn, Bridge of the Gods Motel and Columbia Gorge Inn.

The project will open the final link in a scenic bike ride from Troutdale to Cascade Locks on 26 miles of the Columbia River Historic Highway and 6.5 miles of shared use path on the State Trail. Ultimately, the trail will extend to Hood River, although the design and funding sources are still under study for construction of the trail in the Mitchell Point area.

The new 1.6-mile trail segment includes:

• A new 12-foot wide paved path accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists, walkers, hikers and wheelchairs.

• A distinctive new 76-foot long pedestrian bridge over McCord Creek designed to reflect the artistry and craftsmanship of the original highway design.

• A new picnic and rest area with restored views of Beacon Rock.

• A link with U.S. Forest Service Trail 400 connecting to Elowah Falls.

• Another ADA accessible section of the trail.

In 1987, the Legislature set in motion the restoration of the Historic Columbia River Highway, which was completed in 1922 as America’s first scenic highway. By the 1950s, many sections of the road had been abandoned or demolished for what eventually became Interstate 84.

With the new segment, 62 of the original 73 miles of Historic Highway linking Troutdale with The Dalles are open to motor vehicles or to bikes and pedestrians.