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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  Outdoors

New bridge opens over Columbia River, filling in gap in cross-state rail trail

UPDATED: Fri., April 22, 2022

A long-neglected bridge over the Columbia River reopened on April 8, connecting key sections of the cross-state Palouse-to-Cascades Trail.

The Beverly Bridge, near Beverly, Washington, and south of Vantage, is now open to nonmotorized use. The former Milwaukee Railroad bridge, which had been closed for 42 years, allows riders on the 289-mile-long PTCT to cross the Columbia River. Prior to the bridge’s renovation, bikers, horse riders and hikers had to make detours of up to 100 miles on busy roads, according to a news release from Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition.

“It’s a really big deal, and completes one of the most difficult gaps in the trail,” Cindy Whaley, a Washington State Parks and Recreation commissioner from Spokane, said in an email.

The 85-foot high bridge received $5.575 million in capital funding appropriations as part of the 2019-21 capital budget. After the railroad abandoned the bridge in 1980, ownership was transferred to the state and in 1982 the bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places, according to Amanda McCarthy, Washington State Park’s interim communication director. A wildfire in 2014 destroyed the bridge deck. Reconstruction began in 2020.

“The Beverly Bridge project is unique in that it perfectly embodies our dual mission to connect all Washingtonians to their diverse, natural and cultural heritage and provide memorable recreational and educational experiences that enhance their lives,” she said in an email.

The connection has been lauded by trail users. The PTCT, which is mostly gravel, starts in North Bend and ends at the Idaho border near Tekoa, Washington. It traverses Washington’s diverse landscape, going through evergreen forests, old railroad tunnels, eastern Washington’s arid scablands and finally the Palouse’s wide-open wheat fields. The state purchased the trail corridor from the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad in 1981.

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Department, however, does not own all sections of the trail. The Department of Natural Resources owns some sections, as do private landowners.

“The Beverly Bridge is a landmark example of industrial prowess and railroad structural engineering at the turn of the 20th Century. Completed in 1909, this bridge was built for the ages. Sadly, it was abandoned in 1980, as part of a major Milwaukee Road retrenchment,” said Mark Borleske, vice chair of the Cascade Rail Foundation in a statement. “Dormant for 42 years, this bridge once again it serves a purpose; to connect both sides of the state. It continues as a link between the Cascades and the Palouse, as the name of the trail adeptly recognizes, this time by recreational and heritage travelers.”

The bridge is owned by the Washington State Department of Natural Resources but was renovated by and is managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. In addition to the DNR and Washington State Parks, the renovation involved collaboration by the Cascade Rail Foundation, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, the Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and the Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition, which elevated interest in and enthusiasm for the bridge renovation, as well as supporting funding for the project.

Despite the completion of the bridge, the PTCT is not an uninterrupted trail.

Current gaps that State Parks is hoping to close include renovating a trestle at Tekoa, rebuilding bridges near Malden, Washington, destroyed in the Babb Fire and several others. There will be a parade and grand opening of the Tekoa Trestle on June 5. The trail used to be called the John Wayne Pioneer Trail but was renamed in 2018.

UPDATE: This story was updated with additional information about the Tekoa Trestle on the Washington-Idaho border.

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