Historic Columbia River Highway

Bridal Veil, OR
United States
Historic Columbia River Highway

Landscape Information

Columbia River Highway

Considered the oldest scenic highway in the U.S., this parkway runs through the Columbia River Gorge between Troutdale and The Dalles, Oregon. Built between 1913 and 1922, it has often been referred to as "the King of Roads" and compared with the great scenic roads of Europe, after which it was modeled. Significant for its engineering, which included early cliff-face road building, as well as for its rustic and naturalistic design, the road was largely the work of entrepreneur and Good Roads promoter Samuel Hill and engineer and landscape architect Samuel C. Lancaster. It was laid out to respond to and enhance the natural features of the Gorge, with minimal impact to the land and incorporating rustic design elements such as masonry guard rails, naturalistic rock cuts and stone retaining walls. The road’s design greatly influenced other scenic highway projects, including national park roads, in the 1920s and 1930s.

By the 1930s, the road showed signs of early aging due to heavy use. In the 1950s, the first changes were made to its alignment, and by 1954, it was superseded by Interstate 84. Since 1981, intensive study and planning has led to renewed interest in its preservation and reuse. Sixty one miles of the road are currently accessible by car, bike, or foot along the Columbia River Highway State Trail. The road is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and has been designated a National Civil Engineering Landmark and portions named a National Historic Landmark.