The John Wayne Pioneer Trail
The John Wayne Pioneer Trail is the longest rail-trail conversion in the United States. The trail follows the former railway roadbed of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road) for an estimated 285 miles across two-thirds of the state of Washington, from the western slopes of the Cascade Mountains to the Idaho border.
The State of Washington bought the former Milwaukee Road corridor for $3,000,000 via a quitclaim deed after the railroad filed for bankruptcy in 1977. State legislation "railbanked" the corridor with provisions that allow for the reversion to railroad usage in the future. The trail was named in honor of the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders Association for their vision and assistance in creating the trail.
Today the John Wayne Pioneer Trail is a National Recreational Trail, enjoyed by hikers, horse riders, bikers, Boy Scouts, rail historians, scientists, and trail enthusiasts of all sorts. The trail highlights Washington's diverse and scenic landscape, traveling through evergreen forests and dark tunnels, over high trestles and spectacular rivers, and across open farmland and high desert. In 2006, the 110 mile section from the western terminus near Cedar Falls/Rattlesnake Lake to the Columbia River south of Vantage was developed as Iron Horse State Park. Washington State Parks continues to work on development and improvement of the JWPT through eastern Washington.
Threat to the Trail
In 2015, Washington State Senate President Mark Schoesler and Representative Joe Schmick, both from the 9th District, attempted to close a 135-mile-long section of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail east of the Columbia River by including an amendment to the state's 2015 capital budget that would give away this public asset to adjacent private landowners. This was done without public notification or comment. It was later revealed that an error in the language of the proviso nullified the amendment temporarily. Alerted to the legislative effort to close the trail, a public outcry by local citizens has stalled the plans to close the trail for now. 18 cities have passed resolutions to fund the trail rather than close it, and State Parks established a process to solicit public opinions.
May, 2016. The Iron Horse State Park tunnels are open for 2016! (Except the Bolyston tunnel in the Yakima Training Center which requires a detour).
May 1, 2016. Op Ed. "Washington’s cross-state trail needs support, money."Snoqualmie Tunnel Bolylston Tunnel
Historic bridge on the JWPT near Rosalia, eastern WA