The Historic Columbia River Highway runs along the Columbia River on the Oregon side for approximately 75 miles. It is considered one of the most scenic highways in Oregon and was the first planned scenic roadway in the United States. It begins in Troutdale and ends in The Dalles as a important safe passage being built between 1913 and 1922. Points of interest are the Bridge of the Gods and Cascade Locks. Another area of special interest is where the historic highway runs through Mosier and its preserved tunnels highlighting scenic tour days. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a National Landmark and is designated a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers. It was replaced for logistics, speed, safety, and accessibility with the construction of the Interstate Highway 84 during the 1930’s and 1950’s, falling to be a placade of history maintained by the state of Oregon as Historic Columbia River Highway No. 100 or Route 30 as well as the “Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail.” Is was modeled after the great scenic roads of Europe and the project initiated by Sam Hill (local lawyer and entrepreneur) with the assistance of engineer Samuel C. Lancaster. It was envisioned first as a tourist play route for road trips in the Model T absorbing the beauty of the Columbia River and its waterfalls. It blended in as Highway Route 30 when the U.S. Highway system was established in 1926. It was an essential route taking advantage of the lowest crossing of the Cascade Mountains that was carved by the Columbia River during the Cascades mountain uplift providing a safe and economic alternative to the previous dangerous rafting portages used by the Oregon Trail. Originally at this crossing was the Barlow Road in 1846 around the south side of Mount Hood, followed by the Sandy wagon road in the 1870s, and the railway. It was a very difficult highway to create dealing with numerous curves, grades, distance, rockfalls, avalanches, and drops. All the locations with elements of natural beauty and scenic wonder were set as control points along the route to be included.
These remnants of the Columbia River Highway’s history echoes a time of great adventure, slow travel, and mesmerizing views. The Columbia River Highway once came through these cliffs back in 1921. There were 2 tunnels that originally were built through this high rock point to allow for travel. It was a popular highway then turned byway, then turned trail. It gave fabulous views of the Columbia River and the Gorge. The architects of the tunnels took their inspirated from the Axenstrasse along Lake Lucerne, Switzerland. But regardless of the sound design, these tunnels were plagued with troubles, especially rockfalls and automobile accidents. In 1954 they build the replacement road at water level along the river, and these tunnels were abandoned and fell into disrepair. The replacement road became Interstate 84. In 1995 the tunnels were re-opened for tourist byway access, and then converted to the Historic Columbia River Highway Trail, completely restored. It was opened to hikers in 2000 as a 4 1/4 mile hiking trail. Panoramic scenic overlooks, picnic tables, and paved trails appease the regular day-visitors to this hotspot along the Columbia. Great views of 18 mile island can be seen very nicely from several vantage points along the trail. THere is an etching of a message scratched into the rock past the sencond window in 1921 by a hunting party that was trapped there from snow fall in the past.