Monday, January 13, 2014

When the HCRH & I-84 First Meet: Puzzling Out the Original HCRH Alignment Through Dodson & Warrendale

Excerpted from:

UPDATE:  September 6, 2014
After looking at this for over a year now, tearing my hair out, and just jumping up and down being mad, I am, for the most part, now willing to accept that the Frontage Road is the original Route 2 alignment.  

However, I still want to know what is going on with the over-engineered parts of Enquist and Warrendale Roads!

The HCRH Meets The Interstate
Historic Columbia River Highway. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Oregon. April 23, 2013

The Gorge Is Fun Like This:

In the photo below, from left to right, north to south, are Tumalt Road, Warrendale Road, I-84, NE Frontage Road, and a mysterious winding track through the woods. But which, if any, is the original historic highway?

Tumalt Road, Warrendale Road, I-84, NE Frontage Road, and a mysterious winding track through the woods. 

Google Earth. Imagery Date: July 18, 2010 

This is the first segment of the HCRH where tracing the original alignment becomes somewhat problematic.  There are a couple different possibilities here, and it could well be that both were the alignment at different times in history.  Or neither.  

When you first glance at the history of the Columbia River Highway, it is easy to get the impression that it was the first and only road running through the Gorge, but this is an oversimplification.  The fact of the matter is, there were roads before the HCRH and there were, in some cases, roads running parallel to the HCRH through certain areas.

Complicating this even more is the fact that the highway itself was by no means as static of a creation as we'd think at first glance.  When the road was originally constructed, in some areas, rather than building a new road, existing roads were linked together to form something like a rough draft of the Columbia River Highway.  Later on, some of these existing segments were replaced by entirely new segments of highway following entirely new routes.  

Adding to this jumble of routes are the changes that followed later on with the creation of the waterside route of U.S. 30.  

Then, of course, came the wholesale destruction of many segments with the construction of the four lane interstate.  In many areas, it is true that the old highway is under I-84.  Sometimes the west or east lanes are actually the old highway itself or, more often, that the massive fills and cuts required by a four lane interstate freeway just obliterated the old highway route.  However, when looking closer, one finds that many of the sections supposedly destroyed by the interstate are still out there in one form or another (and not just the old loops being reconnected in the Milepost 2016 State Trail project).

So, there are a lot of roads in the gorge, and more than one of them may have been the highway at one point in time or another.  

Beacon Rock and Clouds
Historic Columbia River Highway. Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Oregon. April 23, 2013

Through Dodson and Warrendale, things are pretty confusing.  I need to spend some time digging through some more detailed maps then the old USGS ones.  Wherever the original route, or routes, lie,  they are all pretty much within a couple hundred yards of each other, so it can be difficult to pick them out on the specific routes on the large scale USGS maps.

Another challenge in this section is that this area has been developed for years with settlements pre-dating the highway itself.  There will be traces of roads remaining that existed before the highway in this area.  And, since this is an area that has depopulated since the 1910s, many of those old roads are probably no longer in use, creating confusion.  Just finding an old route that has been severed by I-84 is no guarantee that it is a former route of the HCRH.

Probable Enquist Road - Warrendale Road - I-84 Alignment: 

In my opinion, the most likely route of the HCRH (in it's 1916 configuration, at least) is clearly suggested by comparing the following two maps.

USGS - 1916 - Mt. Hood - Horsetail to McCord
Detail - Edition of March 1913, Reprinted 1916

In the 1916 map, the CRH closely follows the sweeping curve of the railway from Dodson to Warrendale, as does the HCRH, Enquist Road, Warrendale Road, I-84 alignment in the map below.

Google Road Map - Horsetail to Yeon

There are several arguments that support this route.  An alignment along Enquist Road is, of course, a direct extension of the current alignment of the HCRH except for the a minor change in configuration for the westbound I-84 ramps.  It is also a road very much over-engineered for its current traffic flow and function, suggesting a much more significant role for it in the past.  In fact, it is very obvious that Enquist and Warrendale Road are the same road interrupted by the construction of I-84.  Plus, as said before, this route also follows the railway closely, which is the primary detail evident the 1916 USGS map.

Enquist Road Alignment - West 
Google Earth. Imagery Date: July 18, 2010

This road is interrupted in two places, the first by some minor re-routing to accommodate the westbound ramps of I-84, and then later on by the freeway itself.  There is, additionally,  some minor grading and re-routing for the Warrendale underpass.

Enquist Alignment Under I-84 Until Warrendale Road 
Google Earth. Imagery Date: July 18, 2010

This route easily reconnects with the next undisputed section of the original HCRH route, which is where the eastbound lanes cross over McCord Creek.  Warrendale Road "starts" as the westbound I-84 Warrendale exit off ramp.  So, between here and the bridge, we do have a case where the HCRH crosses under I-84 before it actually becomes the east bound lanes of the freeway, for a while, at least.

Warrendale Road to McCord Creek Bridge 
Google Earth. Imagery Date: July 18, 2010 (The date given in the image is a glitch)

One final clue that suggests that this was the original route of the HCRH is the Markham No. 57 postcard. It seems to show a similar mountain in the background, though that is hard to tell, since there are more trees now then there were then, up and down the Gorge, due to fires and logging in the early 20th Century.  However, mountainous, triangular cliffs like this are a dime a dozen in the Gorge and I am still far from certain that this is the actual location of this photo.

The fact that the highway is some distance from the river here, though, adds support for this location.

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center Photo Archive 
Catalog Num: 1999.13.94Q
Condition: Good
Location: The Dalles, Oregon
Content: No. 57. Columbia River Highway, Ore.
Other Notes: description from above on correspondence
Photographer: B.C. Markham, The Dalles, Oregon

Using Google Street View to try to recreate the image (until I can take one myself), I find that the closest I could get is still a little too far south.  However, if one was over by the stop sign on Warrendale Road, the alignment would be almost perfect.  This is by far the closest fit I've found for the photo so far, though there is a location not far from Lancaster Falls in the Lindsey Creek to Starvation Creek Segment that is a close runner up.

If this is the correct location for this photo, though, then that pretty much confirms that the original HCRH alignment is the Enquist to Warrendale Road route.  The other possibility is too far south.

Near Markham No. 57?
Google Street View. Imagery Date: May 2012

Frontage Road Alignment:

Of course, in the Gorge, things are never that simple, and there are a couple flaws with this theory.  One is the information offered by ODOT's 2006 Trail Plan.

The original HCRH alignment did not completely follow the current frontage road through the interchange area; there are other differences near Warrendale. ... Three stone culverts exist within this section.

ODOT. 2006 Historic Columbia River Highway Master Plan - Section 1 Segment K - Frontage Road

Of course, this could be as simple as ODOT following the assumption that most make, that the frontage road is the old HCRH.  Except, obviously, for the I-84 interchange and the re-grading around the Warrendale underpass, it seems like it could be, though it is a little too straight for too long to really have the feel of the old highway in most areas.  While these stone culverts may be in the HCRH style, perhaps they were made that way since the HCRH was near by, not because this is the HCRH itself.  Or it could prove that the Frontage Road, at those points, is the HCRH.

Two more points support the Frontage Road alignment.  Like the Enquist - Warrendale Road alignment, it merges even more seamlessly into the eastbound lanes of I-84, and there are even the remains of an old service station and motel in Dobson that very much look like they belong on the HCRH, not on some side road.

Old Motel and Service Station. Dodson, Oregon.
Google Earth. Imagery Date: July 18, 2010

This route is less complete than the Enquist alignment.  If this was the original alignment, then, from the ODOT 2006 trail plan, it appears that there are two at least two major deviations from the HCRH along this segment.  The first is "through the interchange area."

The first option for the I-84 interchange area, if the original route is not obliterated by the grading required by the construction of the freeway and its ramps, is that it may have followed the power line route between the HCRH and the frontage road.  Clearly visible in the aerial photo above, this track seems to fit the HCRH profile well.  It's curvy, about the right width, and it merges smoothly off of the known highway route from the west to the probable highway route to the east on the frontage road (more on that later).

Power Line Alignment - West 
Google Earth. Imagery Date: July 18, 2010

I have yet to explore this area on foot, but I doubt that there will be clear indicators here such as old pavement, retaining walls, etc.  There are many old grades such as this in the central Gorge and it makes determining the old HCRH route very difficult.  

I am not sure if the fact that the power lines follow this route is an indicator or not.  If it is, that might clear up confusion in at least one other segment, as well.  

Another argument in favor of this route is that it re-connects with the Frontage Road just past the area disrupted by I-84, and it merges with the existing road before the old businesses in Dodson.  

A modification of the Enquist route is a second possibilty in this area, with the "squished" east end of the road crossing the area oblitterated by I-84 to merge with the Frontage Road.  The potential route from the end of Enquist to where it connected with the frontage road on the south side of I-84, according to the measurement below, means that perhaps as much as .6 miles of the old route is under I-84, maybe even more.

Possible HCRH Alignment on Enquist - East end
Google Earth. Imagery Date: July 18, 2010

Circumventing the obvious "differences" in the route near the Warrendale underpass, the power lines follow a second, winding route through the trees.  
HCRH Alignment: Warrendale
Google Earth. Imagery Date: July 18, 2010

The fact that the transmission lines do not follow the road, and the fact that they two places where they diverge are in the two places where there are known disruptions in the road from the construction of I-84 is very interesting to me.  Could this be the original route of the road (whether or not it was the HCRH) and that when the road was re-routed to meet the needs of the freeway, they just moved the road and not the lines?  That makes some sense.  Or maybe the lines themselves were moved away, not the road, to avoid any possible risk from freeway construction mishaps?

Unfortunately, the lack of pavement (I am assuming) on those old tracks are not an indicator.  Where known sections of the HCRH are near I-84, it is not uncommon for the pavement to have been removed.  In some sections, such as the old Viento loops, there are even places where it was pulled up only to be dumped only to be dumped back into large piles on the old road bed itself.

Another possibility is that the old tracks are actually the remains of an older road preceding the HCRH and the other roads in the area.  As I-84 did to the HCRH, so did the HCRH do to the old 1870's Wagon Road through the central gorge.

Of course, a little more research should clear this all up definitively, but these little puzzles are fun to try to figure out from the available clues.  It may turn out that neither route is the HCRH, or that both were at two different times, or that one was the HCRH and one was Highway 30...  Or that...

Things are fun in the Gorge like that.

USGS Maps for comparison...

USGS - 1916 - Mt. Hood - Horsetail to McCord
Detail - Edition of March 1913, Reprinted 1916

USGS - 1954 - Horesetail to Warrendale
WA_Bridal Veil_240220_1954_62500_geo-001

Apparently, when the river route west from Dodson was completed, this area was significantly reconfigured. The first overpass for the highway was already constructed.  

USGS - 1986 - Horsetail to Yeon 
OR_Multnomah Falls_280889_1986_24000_geo

USGS - 1994 - Horsetail to Yeon 
OR_Multnomah Falls_280890_1994_24000_geo

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