CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. — 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, in the Columbia River Gorge. The section will be fully usable after Oct. 31.
Scot Sullenger, who owns the Cascade Motel in Cascade Locks, thinks it could be a perfect weekend bike ride. 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, Ore. — just east of Portland — 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 trail link replaces one of the lost sections.
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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 freeway exit to the east.
Sullenger plans to ride his bike with his wife from Cascade Locks to Troutdale, spend one night at McMenamins Edgefield resort 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 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.
A Sept. 14 dedication celebrated the new trail section, which was open to the public that weekend but will remain closed for general use until Oct. 31. Meanwhile, workers will be paving, finishing walls, landscaping and installing the safety railing along I-84.
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, Ore., 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 Oregon Legislature set in motion the restoration of the Historic Columbia River Highway, America’s first scenic highway. By the 1950s, many sections of the road had been abandoned or demolished for what eventually became Interstate 84.