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How an Ancient Trail Became a Modern Interstate

modern progress amidst the old growth

When engineers in the 1950's planned to build an interstate highway along the Pacific coast to connect Canada and Mexico, they found that it would be easiest to follow US Route (Highway) 99 for nearly the entire route through California, Oregon, and Washington.

When Interstate 5 in Oregon was completed in the 1960's it became the North border of the Riverpass Retreat.

US Route 99, was created via a federal project in the 1920's. In an effort to cut costs, it was decided that several portions of the already existing 'Pacific Highway Auto Trail' would simply be renamed.

By the 1930's, the three Pacific states that had built the 'Pacific Highway Auto Trail', no longer needed to pay for the maintenance themselves, since it was now under federal oversight. This historic US Route 99, lies 150 yards to the South of the Riverpass Retreat, on the South bank of the Rogue River.

The 'Pacific Highway Auto Trail' was a joint project by California, Oregon, and Washington and was constructed throughout the 1910's and 1920's. This project made the individual counties, mostly at their own expense, construct a 'good paved' and connected road to pass through each respected county.

Judge Frank TouVelle of Jacksonville Oregon was a local Jackson County resident who made sure that southern Oregon wasn't left in the dust. He promoted a bond of 1/2 million for the improvement of Highway 99 from a muddy road over the Siskiyou mountains into a paved highway.

The Pacific Highway Auto Trail when finished was 1,687 miles long, the longest stretch of continuous paved road anywhere in the world at the time. As stated, it was later simply renamed US Route 99.

When the individual counties constructed the Pacific Highway Auto Trail, the counties overlaid the new paved road over existing dirt roads in many places that the location suited the project needs.

In southern Oregon, circa 1870's, there were few dirt roads outside of any town, most were just widened native trails, becoming mud traps during the rainy winters. These trails had been found by pioneers and trappers in the early 1800's already well worn, and they made good use of them for overland travel.

The Siskiyou trail is one of the best examples of pre-pioneer native overland routes, connecting southern Washington to the San Francisco area. It was the most efficient, and sometimes the only way for natives to move through the mountains and the winding river valleys of the Pacific Northwest.

The Siskiyou trail has been used as a trading route for thousands of years, and it still is. This map shows the Siskiyou trail, and thus, much of the rails and highways.

Another means of conveyance, namely the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad, formerly a portion of the Southern Pacific Railroad (which in turn was originally the Oregon-California Railroad), follows the Siskiyou trail through the mountain passes.

When completed in 1884, engineers had taken advantage of the easiest land route they could manage, and the ancient Siskiyou trail proved unequalled in potential rail passages. The railroad runs 100 yards south of the Riverpass Retreat's southern border, along the north bank of the Rogue river, just far enough away to be enjoyed.

Interstate 5 was claimed to be built on top of the Siskiyou trail by the engineers and surveyors who designed it, and coincidentally the railroad builders had made the same claim. The Riverpass Retreat happens to sit between both, and we rightfully claim that the Siskiyou trail may have passed directly through, which may explain some of the unusual finds here.

In historic appreciation, at the halfway mark between the railroad and the interstate, we've created a 66 inch wide, 161.8 foot long, perfectly straight, East-West portion of the the Riverpass walking trail marked as 'The Old Siskiyou Trail'.

The nest that is the Riverpass Retreat is made of serene old growth forest surrounded by the sounds of the river, rail and roads, merging to create a city and country feel all at once, that can only be described as yin and yang, a perfect blend of modern civilization and ancient wilderness.


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