Ancient trails turn into interstates.

Updated: Mar 12

Uniquely placed, amongst water, rail and paved routes, Riverpass has been important to trade for millennia.


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 was completed in the 1970's it became the North border of Riverpass.


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.


In doing so, 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. The historic, US Route 99 lies 150 yards to the South of Riverpass, 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. 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 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. Riverpass happens to sit between both, and can rightfully claim that the Siskiyou trail may have passed directly through, which may explain some of the unusual finds here on Riverpass.


As a sign of historic appreciation, Mario (a former land surveyor), has commemorated a 66 inch wide, 161.8 foot long, perfectly straight, East-West portion of the Riverpass Loop named and marked as 'The Old Siskiyou Trail'. The peaceful river valley between the cities of Grants Pass, and Rogue River, today known as Riverpass have been an active place for travelers of every kind for ages.


The serene old growth forest combined with the sounds of the rail and roads, create a city and country feel all at once, that can only be described as yin and yang, a perfect blend of civilization and wilderness.