Columbia Gorge Toothrock Trailhead

Columbia Gorge Toothrock Trailhead

In the Columbia Gorge are hundreds of beautiful sights. In an ironic twist of fate, one of the objects that originally made access to the beauty of the Gorge is now on that list itself. This would be the original Columbia River Gorge Highway.

The Columbia River had always been a highway of sorts, but by the 1920’s citizens on all sides decided that a highway through the Gorge was a necessity. Interestingly, the main impetus of the highway was not commerce, but rather to enjoy the natural beauty of the Columbia River Gorge. The original highway was a triumph of engineering coupled with preservation of the scenery it meandered through.

Columbia River Gorge

Architectural additions like this stone guardrail added to that scenery and helped attract people to the Gorge. Many waysides, inns, hotels, and even entire towns popped up to serve the Columbia River Highway.

While it’s been bypassed by the modern Interstate 84, large parts of the old Historic Columbia River Highway can still be driven on. But this part in middle, between about Bonneville Dam and a bit past Cascade Locks, has been turned into a trail for many local hikes. On the same exit as the Dam, but hidden a bit to the right is the Toothrock Trailhead.

Toothrock Trail Head

“Today the roar of Interstate 84 leaves no doubt about the primary means of transportation though the Columbia River Gorge. But for thousands of years, the Columbia’s song was broken only by water lapping against Indian canoes.

This basalt bluff, called Toothrock, bears witness to transportation history. During the 1840’s, the Oregon Trail emigrants portaged around rapids called “The Cascades” on a trail within view of this rock. The first wagon road on the Oregon side created the Cascade Range over these basalt shoulders in 1856. Oregon’s first locomotive steamed around the landmark during the 1860’s to connect the steamboats on the river. The Historic Columbia River Highway celebrated the dawn of the automobile age as a viaduct carried traffic around the monolith in the early 1900s. Construction of a tunnel through the rock in the 1930’s marked the beginning of today’s water grade freeway through the Gorge. Finally,the 1960’s brought construction of the westbound freeway viaduct around the rock.”

While technically out of season, there were still plenty of wildflowers along the path.

Columbia River Gorge Wildflowers

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As the nicely paved path winds through the forest, part of the original viaduct was rebuilt to carry the remains of the path.

Columbia River Highway Viaduct

This portion of the trail eventually ends at the Eagle Creek Fish Hatchery and Overlook, but continues on in several directions from there.

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