Replacement bridges opened on Willapa Hills Trail in southwest WA state

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Eight years after a destructive storm washed out two major bridges on southwestern Washington’s Willapa Hills Trail, Lewis County says those two bridges have been replaced and opened this week. [See map below]

Discover Lewis County reports:

“A major milestone in construction on the Willapa Hills Trail will connect more than a dozen miles of trail to outdoor enthusiasts in West Lewis County.”

A new bridge over Chehalis River, courtesy Discover Lewis County

A new bridge over Chehalis River, courtesy Discover Lewis County

The two old railroad trestles on the 56-mile rail-trail that links the city of Chehalis with the Pacific Coast created two detours for bicycle travelers making the trip. One interruption, the Spooner Road bridge detour, put bicyclists, hikers and equestrians on 4.5 miles of local roads. Another, near the town of Dryad, was about 1.5 miles.

The removal of the obstacles at the two Chehalis River crossings opens up a clear path between Adna and the mid-point town of Pe Ell, a distance of some 12 miles. There is still a long bridge over the Chehalis River near Adna that needs redecking, which the state says will be complete in the spring of 2016 to complete a clear route all the way to Chehalis.

Deck of bridge near Adna in March 2014.

Deck of bridge near Adna in March 2014.

[Although that bridge is officially closed, in 2014 I was able to cross it after dismounting my bike and stepping carefully on the old railroad ties. That bridge might be completely inaccessible as contractors work on the bridge, however. ]

Let’s hope the completion of the new bridges brings more bicycle, horse and pedestrian traffic to the old route of the Northern Pacific Railway.

The trail is paved for about five miles at either end at Chehalis in the east to South Bend in the west. In between the trail is compacted gravel, rougher in some places than others.

It passes through scenic farm country and crosses a low pass in the Willapa Hills. Most of the small burgs along the route were at one time lumber boom towns and boast colorful histories.

The completion of the bridges will enable the inaugural Willapa Hills Trail Fat Tire Ride and Festival to proceed. The features a 22-mile bike ride from Chehalis to Pe Ell, overnight camping, and a return ride the next day. The dates are June 25 and 26, 2016.

You can keep track of all the news regarding the rail-trail at Willapa Hills Trail Fans on Facebook.

See below for approximate locations of new bridges (circled)

Approximate locations of replacement bridges opened on Willapa Hills Trail

Approximate locations of replacement bridges opened on Willapa Hills Trail

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  1. Willapa Hills Trail Fat Tire Ride & Festival 2016

    Summary: A family-fun leisure two-day bike ride that begins and ends in Chehalis and includes an evening festival and overnight camping stay in Pe Ell.

    Twenty-two miles of safe, beautiful scenic views of the rivers and farmlands.

    Direct farm market venues at strategic locations along the Willapa Hills Trail during the ride to provide healthy refreshments for cyclists as they ride from Chehalis to Pe Ell and back.

    When: June 25-26, 2016

    Start/End: Veterans Memorial Museum, 100 SW Veterans Way, Chehalis, WA 98532

    Festival & Campout: Pe Ell, WA

    Cost: Early Registration: Ends 5/15/2016
    Individual Price $30: Includes 1 t-shirt.
    Family Price $80: A family includes 5 people; each additional person is $10. Includes 1 t-shirt, additional t-shirts $10.
    Meal Tickets: $10 per ticket/meal/person

    Website: Registration to open soon.
    Facebook: Willapa Hills Trail Fat Tire Ride & Festival
    Instagram & Twitter: @ridethewillapa
    Email: with any questions.

    Additional Info:
    The surface of the Willapa Hills Trail varies. It is paved (with a gravel lane to the side for equestrian use) for 6.5 miles leaving Chehalis, fine gravel for another 10 miles, and lastly rough ground for 5.5 miles leading into Pe Ell. A bike with fat off-road tires is recommended.

    Raising funds to continue paving the 53-mile Willapa Trail from I-5 in Chehalis to Hwy 101 in Raymond, WA.

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