1914 Elliott Report
In 1872 the State of Oregon built the first continuous road through the gorge from Sandy to The Dalles. This wagon road was known for its sharp turns and very steep grades. Much of the route was destroyed when the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company constructed a water-level track through the Gorge in 1882-83.By the 1870s, the need for a wagon road in the Gorge was addressed by the Oregon legislature. It appropriated $50,000 for the construction of a road from Troutdale to The Dalles. When funds were exahusted in 1876, another $50,000 was dedicated to the road's completion. The resulting narrow dirt road was crooked and steep -- often requiring double teams.
In 1882, the Oregon Railway & Navigation line running from Cascade Locks to Portland was constructed. The railroad ran just beside the river and a few feet above it. In the process of the railroad's construction, the road of 1876 was largely destroyed.
Peg Willis. Building the Columbia River Highway: They Said It Couldn't Be Done. Charleston: The History Press. 2014. 18.
... it was not until 1872 that the Oregon legislature made an appropriation to construct a road through the gorge. The present highway has been developed from the narrow, crooked road built with that appropriation.
Oregon State Archives - A 1940 Journey Across Oregon:
5. Early Routes >