The western and eastern segments of the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail — Washington state’s longest trail at about 230 miles — officially will be joined on April 8 with the dedication of the refurbished Beverly Bridge across the Columbia River.
I never thought I’d see this day. For self-propelled travelers, it is like the Berlin Wall falling. The Columbia River will no longer present a barrier for people biking or hiking across the state.
The 2,200-foot bridge will enable bicyclists — as well as horse riders and hikers — to safely cross the Columbia River as they head east or west on the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail, previously known as the John Wayne Pioneer Trail. It links the eastern and western sides of the state for pedestrians. It removes a major gap in the Rails to Trails Conservancy’s Great American Rail-Trail that stretches across 12 states from Washington DC to Washington state.
The state says representatives from local communities, trail enthusiasts, state parks and other elected officials at the grand opening ceremony of the Beverly Bridge at the Huntzinger Trail head in Beverly, at 1 p.m. on April 8 (that’s a Friday). You can pedal your bike, ride your horse and take a stroll across the bridge, which has a new deck and railings, in addition to a fresh paint job.
The bridge dates to 1909 when it was built for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad. Sometime after the state took control of the railroad right-of-way in the early 1980s, the bridge suspiciously caught fire and the deck was ruined.
It stood like that for years. Bicyclists on cross-state rides would emerge from the arid Yakima Army Training Center to a view across the Columbia River to Eastern Washington, but no bridge to take them there. The nearest bridge carried traffic on I-90 and that crossing was not only unpleasant but unsafe.
Renewed interest in improving the eastern segment of the trail and reopening the span came after an eastern Washington legislator tried a cheap trick to turn over the corridor to adjacent landowners. It backfired on him due to a simple typo, and people from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office down through the state agencies to members of the Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition united to get funding for improvements.
The reopening of the Beverly Bridge — a $5.5 million job — is the biggest and most visible improvement on the trail so far. It will certainly create more cross-state traffic on the Palouse to Cascades Trail and encourage more improvements on the segment in eastern Washington. Long neglected, the eastern section is known not only for its spectacular scenery, but the rough trail surface and trail gaps due to avalanches and missing trestles. The expected reopening of the Tekoa trestle near the Idaho border is an example of renewed interest of improving the trail in the eastern part of the state.
See details about the Beverly Bridge dedication here: