Trip to Biddle's Butte 1916 Special Collections
Historic Photograph Collections
Biddle's Butte is described as one of Portland's Beauty Points
William McReynolds tells of Drive Through Gorgeous Scenery on North Bank of Columbia and Improvement of Roads Advocated to Give What He Declares Would Be Incomparable Loop Drive.
Sunday Oregonian, June 25, 1916
By William McReynolds
I wonder how many people living in Portland know where Biddle's Butte is located and what may be seen from it's crest? Its base is Cape Horn on the Columbia, a few miles east of Washougal. In point of time it is only a brisk two hours' drive from Portland, and it affords the grandest view of river and mountain that I have ever seen.
Last week W.K. Hay, of the H.L. Keats Auto Company, drove a Chalmers Six-30, containing a party of five, to its very crest. We left Portland late in the morning, taking the usual route over the Harriman bridge, turning north on Williams avenue and again on Portland boulevard, thence on Vancouver avenue, arriving at the Vancouver ferry in good time. Leaving Vancouver, the swift Chalmers passed in succession Ellsworth, Fisher and Camas, reaching Washougal a little after 11 o'clock.
Here we stopped over an hour for luncheon, debating in the meantime whether to take the county road, which turns up the Washougal River for several miles, or the Forest Hill road, which followsup the Columbia and passes over the crest of the hill west of Biddle's Butte. Rain had fallen and, although the roads were wet in many places, the going up to this point had been good. Finally we elected to go by way of the Forest Hill road, and, so far as scenery is concerned, we were amply repaid, but the soft dirt road was extremely muddy and slippery. As we followed up the hill more and more of the Columbia disclosed itself, making a picture most beautiful.
Biddle Road admired
Arriving at the shoulder of the hill known as Biddle's Butte, we turned square to the right through a gate and followed a winding road to its summit. This road, built by Henry J. Biddle in 1911, is laid out on an easy grade, and just now it is carpeted with luxuriant close-growing clover. In following the road that winds around the hill, sometimes the Columbia was in sight and sometimes the green hills of Washington. Not until we reached the summit, however, did the full magnificence of the view dawn upon us. Gazing across the river, we looked down on Crown Point, in full view. For miles we could see the Columbia Highway leading up the river like a silver ribbon, marked here and there by the great waterfalls that come tumbling down the cliffs. Between us and the Oregon shore the great river swept along. We could trace its course from the eminence on which we stood almost as far as the eye could see. If it were night, the lights of Portland could have been seen.
To the north lay a high plateau known as Bear Valley, and we were constrained to believe that it must have been named by someone standing where we stood in order to obtain perspective enough to name it "valley.\" Still farther to the north the green hills and valleys stretched away in the distance.
Looking east, the towering hills and cliffs of the sister states seemed to join, but as the eye followed they broke their embrace to let the lordly Columbia flow by.
Storm is viewed
We lingered over an hour at this wonderful spot; so long, in fact, that a storm overtook us there. From away down the river we could see great black clouds piling up, and suddenly a flash of lightening startled us; then from far off came the deep reverberation of the thunder. Far below us in the valley a white curtain seemed to be dropping from the clouds. We thought it was rain, but soon it came upon us, and we had to run under the protecting top of the Chalmers, for it was hail, genuine hail, which fell so quickly and in such quantities that after the stormhad passed we gathered up heaps of it for snowballs and had a "battle above the clouds.\"
We headed the car up the river again, but three days' rain and the hail storm had made much of the road almost impassable. However, the going was somewhat better after we got clear of the long slope to the east and again reached the county road.
Passing Skamania, we came to Castle Rock, now called Beacon Rock, where our dial showed 48.5 miles from Portland. Here we met Henry J. Biddle, owner of the rock and of some considerable land surrounding it. Mr. Biddle, with his assistant C. Johnson, is building a path around the almost perpendicular sides of the rock, which rears itself 600 feet above the river. A number of sections of the path have been completed, but the work will not be entirely finished until some time in the Fall. The work is done mainly by blasting sections from the face of the rock and then leveling off a narrow trail. Mr. Biddle is also building a scenic driveway which runsfor a distance on the north of the county road.
Stars and Stripes Float
Mr. Biddle has the Stars and Stripes proudly floating from the topmost pinnacle of the rock. This was accomplished only by dint of hard climbing and personal risk on the part of Mr. Biddle and his assistant, there being sections where iron spikes had to be driven into the wallsof the rocks and ropes used in climbing upwards.
Again we turned the Chalmers up the river along the road that the rain had left muddy and slippery in its wake. It is no less tribute to the sturdy qualities of the car than to the skillfuldriving of Mr. Hay that the Chalmers came through without an accident.
A contract has been let for improvement and partial relocating of the Highway from the Clarke County line through Skamania County to a point a few miles west of Stevenson, and work is alreadyunderway, but there are as yet no completed sections.
We reached Stevenson, county seat of Skamania County, about dusk and sent repeated "S.O.S.\" calls to the ferryman who lives at Cascade Locks on the Oregon side. For some reason, however, best known to himself, the ferryman failed to come over, perhaps not being willing to trust his frail bark on the storm-tossed waters of the Columbia.
Dimes Spent Recklessly
Cheerfully we fed dime after dime into the telephone office at Stevenson in a vain effort to get over the river so as to return to Portland during the evening. The dimes, however, werespent in pairs-also in vain. The toll is ten cents, and the messenger to the ferryman is an additional 10 cents. The "messenger,\" we were told, consists in the operator at Cascade Locks going out on the porch and calling the message over to the ferryman. Thrifty young woman!
We enjoyed the hospitality of Stevenson's show hotel that night. The river was crossed the next morning, and the Chalmers sped into Portland over the Columbia Highway.
After the roads on the north side of the Columbia have been improved, the "loop trip\" will be one that will bring pleasure to thousands of motorists, who can cross the river between Stevenson and Cascade Locks or, by going farther up the Columbia, between White Salmon and Hood River.
It would seem that money and labor spent on the Forest Hill road east of Washougal would also be a wise investment, for it would bring tourists to the county in which it lies, and itwould bring to Portland's dooryard a viewpoint from which she could stand and gaze proudly down upon her own great Columbia Highway.