Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail featured in Rails to Trails magazine

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This past summer I spent several weeks researching and visiting the newly minted Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail for an article that appeared this fall on the cover of the Rails to Trails Conservancy magazine.

Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail is the cover story for fall Rails to Trails Magazine

You can read the article here or here (flipbook style).

Although I didn’t have a chance to ride the trail end-to-end, working on the article gave me an opportunity to visit the section east of the Columbia River. Everything I’d heard that segment is true — very rough and remote with jaw-dropping beautiful scenery.

Forget the impressions of the eastern Washington landscape you get from buzzing along I-90. The arid scab lands marked by buttes and far-off horizons are wonderful to behold from a bicycle saddle.

My bicycle exploring buddy Dan gingerly walks across an old trestle at Rock Lake

The other thing I took away from my travels and research is that many people are working very hard to make this a destination trail.

Dating back to the 1980s, the John Wayne Pioneer Wagon and Riders Association has been working to preserve the 285-mile abandoned railroad corridor that runs roughly from North Bend to the Idaho border near Tekoa. Now they’ve been joined by the Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition. Both groups are working with legislators, Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, the State Parks Department as well as the Department of Natural Resources to make the trail more accessible to users.

The trail will see a flurry of activity over the next two years to complete several gaps. The reopening of the old railroad bridge across the Columbia River at Beverly is probably the most noteworthy project.

Here’s a rundown from the Washington State Parks and Recreation Department:

Renslow Trestle Decking and Railings (this is the trestle the crosses I-90 just east of Ellensburg and Kittias) – $1.2 million: Complete June 30, 2020.

Beverly Bridge Decking and Railings – $5 million: Complete June 1, 2021

Malden to Rosalia Trestles, Surfacing and Trailhead – $1.8 million: Complete June 30, 2021

Tekoa Trestle Decking and Railings – $1.7 million: Complete June 30, 2021

Also, 23 road signs will be installed to direct travelers to the state park trail, which was formerly known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail at Iron Horse State Park. The parks department simplified the name to Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail a couple of years ago.

These improvements should make the trail more accessible and draw more bicycle travelers to the towns of Tekoa, Rosalia, Malden, Lind, and Beverly in eastern Washington.

There will still be plenty of work to upgrade the trail surface for bicycle travelers. The trail is the western-most piece of the Great American Rail Trail and will likely see an uptick in traffic from hikers, bikers and equestrians making the cross-country journey.

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1 ping

    • Dan Durkin on December 10, 2019 at 8:41 am
    • Reply

    Wonderful trip and amazing sights

    • JEFFREY L DOPPELT on December 11, 2019 at 9:00 pm
    • Reply

    Well you know Gene, it wasn’t a ‘Typo’. It was an intentional attempt by a State Senator to give the large stretch of trail east of the Columbia River to his buddies, the adjacent landowners. It was only caught because of the typo. Which brings up another point. This particular senator was chastised relentlessly by a gentlemen by the name of Ted Blaszak. Not very well liked but Ted was asked by the governors office back in 2017 to enter a formal partnership agreement between the city of Tekoa and the State of Washington which not only gave the Trestle and the trail an additional layer of protection from the state senator but also allowed the city to qualify for a non-matching fund grant that would repair the trestle in the immediate future. Ted also acted as a liaison for connecting the trail through the farmers land from Tekoa to the Idaho border, which opened up the trail to snowmobiles and cross country skiers. So Ted really helped save the trail. At the end of the day he made such a nuisance of himself that the legislators agreed to move forward with the Cross State Washington Trail n/k/a Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail but forced out Ted from the Tekoa Trail and Trestle Association while at the same time its members formed a new organization. So I give Ted a lot of credit. He was instrumental in the legislators decision to rescind their plan to turn over the rail bed to the adjacent property owners.

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