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.
A very small tourist town (ca. 3 square miles) with just over 1,000 residents, sitting along the Columbia River is named appropriately for the Locks built atop the Cascade Rapids perpendicular to the town. It is a town located in Hood River County Oregon. The locks were built to improve navigation past the Cascade Rapids and the town grew up in support of the workers in the area. The locks were built in 1878 and completed in 1896. They became submerged in 1938 and no longer used, as they were replaced by the Bonneville Lock and Dam. They became the Cascade Locks Marina Park and Campground sitting in the shadow of the legendary yet modern Bridge of the Gods. Cascade Locks also is a few miles upstream from the Eagle Creek Gorge where the Pacific Crest Trail cuts through, making Cascade Locks a popular stop-off for the PCT Hikers. The town has been in political limelight of late as the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs in 1999 has attempted to build a off-reservation casino here, and since 2008 the city has been trying to sell off its well water to Nestle for bottling. In May 2016, voters from Hood River County was 65% in favor of stopping the Nestle operations, although the town is still fighting the County to allow it. This has recently made Cascade Locks a hotspot for ecological concern. The region is pleasantly warm (never too hot due to the winds) with dry summers, and no average monthly temperatures over 71.6 degrees fahrenheight giving it a warm summer Mediterranean climate. It is also home to a salmon hatchery.
The Canals and Locks
- “Cascades Canal and Locks – The need to improve travel in the Columbia River began with the flow of immigrants heading west and grew steadily as that flow swelled into a tidal wave of commerce. Getting around the rapids remained the greatest challenge. In 1876 Congress appropriated $90,000 to the US Army Corps of Engineers to study construction of a canal at the Cascades. For the next 20 years until the canal opened in 1896, a succession of Corps’ Engineers and private contractors struggled against the forces of nature to complete the monumental project. The canal was originally designed to be eight feet deep, fifty feet wide, and 7,200 feet long at low water with two locks. The cost was fixed at $1.2 million. No sooner had work begun in November 1878 than high winds, rain, and floating ice prevented river travel and isolated the work force at Cascade Locks. Nature had given notice that the cost of the change would be high. In 1880-1881, it was determined that specifications must be changed because of a miscalculation of the low water mark. The plans were revised so that there would be only one lock 90 feet wide and 462 feet long with a lift of 24 feet (later changed to 36 feet.) Work resumed on the canal in 1886. skilled stonemasons cut stones for the canal walls. Unmortared basalt rocks three feet thick were laid above the high water mark. There were now four sets of lock gates. The guard gates at the upper end of the canal were the largest built to that time. They were 55 feet by 52.6 feet and weighed 325,353 pounds. Because the river flood created each year in early June, no work could be done during the dry summer months. Each year at the beginning of the flood season, all of the equipment had to be moved and then re positioned after the flood was over. Work resumed in the fall but was hampered by heavy rainfall and frequent snows. Workers wore cumbersome oilskin coats and awkward boots, showing their efforts greatly. Funds were slow in coming and in 1886 Major Handbury noted that “a generation will have been born and gone to its grave between the beginning and ending of this enterprise’. At last after the flood damage of 1894 was repaired the canal was opened in 1896. 1.8 million dollars had been expended but the cost of human toil far exceeded any dollar amount. Given the isolated and extreme nature of the site, otherwise mundane project statistics are staggering. ” ~ sign at Cascade Locks Marina Park and Campground, Cascade Locks, Oregon
Bridge of the Gods
~ Columbia River, Cascade Locks, Oregon ~
Legend has it that this area was home to a magnificent land bridge manifested by the Gods of the local Native Americans. Today it is a steel toll bridge crossing the Columbia River connecting Interstate 84 with Washington State Road 14. It is one of the few crossings between Oregon and Washington.
Legend and Lore
Geologically this is one of the shortest crossing areas between Oregon and Washington over the Columbia River. It is believed that a thousand years ago there was a massive landslide from the north shore of the Columbia River that slid into the river and blocked the Gorge. It created a natural dam and inland sea that extended between Oregon, Washington, and into Idaho. As river pressures began carving out natural bridges and tunnels under this landslide to outlet into the Pacific, eventually the blockage dam was washed away. Some say it originally carved a large natural stone bridge that the Native Americans believed was created by the Gods. Legend has it this land bridge eventually collapsed back into the Columbia River, destroying the inland sea, and creating the Cascade rapids.
Native America legends tell a tale that the Great Spirit Manito created this bridge so his peoples of the Columbia River could cross the river from bank to bank, and it was so called the “Giant Crossover”. This Great Spirit assigned the Wise woman Guardian Loo-Wit to watch over it and protect the river, bridge, and peoples of the area. Out of fear and respect for the Great Spirit, the tribes would appeal for protection while crossing the river. It was eventually called the “Bridge of the Gods” translated and nicknamed as such from the white westerners who came through the area. Manito had sent his sons to earth – the three great mountains: Multnomah the Warrior (Mt. Rainier), Klickitat the totem maker (Mt. Adams), and Wyeast, the singer (Mt. Hood) who all presided over the river and the bridge peacefulling for many years until the beautiful Squaw Mountain moved into the valley between Klickitat and Wyeast. She fell in love with Wyeast while still flirting with Klickitat, causing rivalry and jealousy between the two causing the mountains to fight over her. Their arguing, growling, trembling, and feuds caused lava, ash, and earthquakes to form in their path – and each other hurling white hot rocks at each other. This destroyed the forests, environment, and beauty of the valley – and broke the bridge causing it to fall into the river never to be seen again. Manito was so upset by this, he formed huge rapids in the Columbia River to separate the feuding brothers. Klickitat won Squaw Mountain’s heart and Wyeast admitted defeat, much to the dismay of Squaw who loved him so, and although at the side of Klickitatt with a heavy broken heart, became depressed and fell into a deep permanent sleep and sits today as “Sleeping Beauty” lying just west of Mt. Adams. Klickitat under such shock from Squaw’s depression, once with a high straight head like Wyeast, fell with grief that he dropped his head in shame and never raised it again. Loo-Wit got caught up in the cross-fire during this battle, and fell with the bridge. the Great Spirit rewarded her with a wish, and she asked to be made young and beautiful again – but being old, she did not require companionship so chose a lonely location. She became the most beautiful of all mountains and made her home far west as the beautiful and powerful Mount Saint Helens.
In 1920 the U.S. War Department issued a construction permit for the bridge to be built for the Interstate Construction Corporation. By 1925 one pier was constructed and the project seemed a failure until the Wauna Toll Bridge Company purchased the project in October 1926 for just over $602,000. They built a large canti-lever bridge with a 707’9″ main span and 211’8″ anchor arms extending 1,131 feet with an overall length of 1,858 feet / 35 feet width across the Columbia River. The original model had a wooden deck and was only 91 feet over the water surface. The bridge had to be raised after the construction of the Bonneville Dam to handle the backwater. This upgrade was funded in part by Congress in 1940 for just over $762,000. The bridge was taken over in 1953 by the Columbia River Bridge Company and eventually purchased by the Port of Cascade Locks Commission for $950,000 on November 1, 1961.
The steel construct of the modern “Bridge of the Gods” is owned and operated by the Port authority of Cascade Locks, Oregon. It is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and costs $1.00 to cross for an average automobile. Before the current model, there was a much more spectacular construct. It is a canti-levered bridge that is the third oldest bridge found on the Columbia River.
This interstate highway follows the Columbia River and is located across the river from State Highway 14 in Washington along the old Oregon Trail. It has become a replacement for the Historic Columbia River Highway (or Highway Route 30) in Oregon. It operates in two non-contiguous sections, the first of which runs from Portland, Oregon to the I-80 junction at Echo, Utah. The section running through Oregon state is also known as the “Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway”. In Portland, Oregon it is also known as the “Banfield Freeway” or “the Banfield”.
Some highlights along this route are: Bridge of the Gods