Salmonberry Corridor
By Laura Stark
Going from the outskirts of Portland,
Ore., all the way to the Pacific Ocean,
without getting in a car? Seems
too good to be true, but soon
the Salmonberry Corridor Rail-
Trail will span 86 miles from the
pastoral community of Banks
in the foothills of the Coast
Range and through the remote
forests of the Salmonberry River
Canyon to the charming towns
along the Oregon coast.
It’s an area super rich with
cultural history, natural history
and a sense of adventure,” says
Doug Decker of the Oregon
Department of Forestry, which
owns much of the surrounding for-
estlands along the trail. “I think it
will be a significant draw for north-
west Oregon.”
The trail will be built along the
corridor of the century-old Pacific
Railway and Navigation Company,
which—due to its steep grades and
sharp curves—gained the moniker,
Punk, Rotten and Nasty.” The route
could just as easily have been called that
because of its constant battle with heavy
rainfall, storms and landslides. In the
winter of 2007, a storm caused such
severe damage to the rail corridor that it
was declared a FEMA disaster site. The
exorbitant cost of repair put an end to rail
use on much of the line once and for all.
The corridor is an unsafe environ-
ment right now,” Decker says. “Because
of the storm, bridges are out, stretches of
the railroad are gone, embankments are
washed out, and tunnels are collapsing.”
But the storm wasn’t just an end; it
was also a beginning. With discontinua-
tion of rail service for much of the line,
the idea of repurposing the corridor for
hikers, cyclists and equestrians gained
traction. The first order of business
for the newly formed Salmonberry
Coalition, composed of government
agencies and other groups interested
in pursuing the idea, was to conduct a
feasibility study to determine if the trail
was a worthwhile pursuit; its favorable
findings were published in 2013.
For the past 40 years or so, there
have been several different concepts of
a Portland-to-coast trail,” says Rocky
Houston, the Oregon Parks and Recreation
Department’s state trails coordinator and
project manager for the trail. “The idea’s
been around for a long time. Then this
moment came when the communities real-
ized they could start using this corridor.”
The route will be a recreational des-
tination, with 13 railroad tunnels and
dozens of trestles, including the Big
Baldwin Bridge, which offers a view,
Houston says, that “looks like trees all
the way to the ocean.” On its east end,
the trail will connect to the already pop-
ular 21-mile Banks-Vernonia State Trail,
Oregon’s first rail-trail.
Peter Lewis
photo courtesy Oregon Parks and Recreation
Clockwise from top: View from the future
rail-with-trail along the Oregon Coast Scenic
Railroad; hiking along the tracks through
Salmonberry River Canyon; one of many trestles
on the former rail corridor; a Pacific Railway and
Navigation Company train circa early 1900s.
Cheryl Hill
Matt Reeder
tracks ’n’ ties