5. Early Routes‎ > ‎

052.050 Portage Wagon Road

Cascade Locks Portage Road and Block House, 1850s
Hadlow, Robert W. and Amanda Joy Piets, Hannah Kullberg, Sara Morrissey, Kristen Stallman, Myra Sperley, Linda Dodds. Historic Columbia River Highway Oral History: Final Report (SR 500-261). Salem: Oregon Department of Transportation Research Section. August 2009. 14.

[In 1856] the first constructed wagon road opened in the Columbia River Gorge. The February 9, 1856 Oregonian reported, "We are informed that a new road around the portage of the Cascades, on the Oregon side, has been completed and that goods are now being transported over this road with safety and dispatch." ... Kilborn's road climbed from river level up over a point of 425 feet above the shore line and down again. In addition to being steep, the road was bumpy and often muddy.

Peg Willis. Building the Columbia River Highway: They Said It Couldn't Be Done. Charleston: The History Press. 2014. 17

The Columbia River water route continued popular both for passengers and for freight, and a portage road was constructed in 1856 to accommodate traffic. Rather than following the water level, later used by the railroad portage, the original wagon road around the Cascades, climbed 425 feet, a steep ascent for the plodding oxen used to draw cumbersome wagons. Toll roads later permitted the passage of cattle and pack trains...  

Oregon State Archives - A 1940 Journey Across Oregon

 to continue exploring the highway