Originally built under the supervision of road visionary Sam Hill and engineer Samuel Lancaster, Oregon’s Historic Columbia River Highway and State Trail was envisioned as a gently wandering route that would provide scenic overlooks to rival the great roads of Europe.
This “King of Roads,” paralleling the Columbia River from Portland, 84 miles east to The Dalles, was completed in 1922. Soon, as vehicles became faster and truck traffic increased, the road became confining, and a wider, straighter road was built. Constructed around sections of the original route to accommodate the larger traveling population, it is known today as Interstate 84.
Thanks to various conservation movements, surviving sections of the first character-filled road became part of the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, and more recently, the entire route was named a National Historic Landmark, the first scenic highway in the country to be so designated.
Today, RVers not too eager to get from here to there can still gander at the stunning views that inspired the original road along these sky-high cliffs, while exploring the rich history of the area. All they have to do is detour onto the Historic Columbia River Highway wherever they see an HCRH logo sign.
Is the Vista house at Crown Point, built in 1916, the most interesting attraction, or are the Mosier Twin Tunnels more fascinating and nostalgic? Only a visit will tell.
Columbia River Gorge Visitor’s Association, (800) 98-GORGE.