The 3,000-foot bike bridge over the Columbia River unites the eastern and western halves of the 289-mile Palouse to Cascades Trail, the longest rail trail in the nation.
“This trail is a national asset, a family asset, the past connecting with the future,” says Gov. Jay Inslee.
On a windy spring day in Eastern Washington, I joined a giddy group of people riding bikes and horses and hiking across the Beverly Bridge.
The bridge's opening on April 8 is a milestone achievement in the development of the 289-mile Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail that spans from Cedar Falls on the eastern slope of the Cascades to the border of Idaho. Washington Bikes, the sister organization of Cascade Bicycle Club, was instrumental in securing funding from legislators in Olympia to complete the bridge project. The bridge allows trail riders to cross 70 feet above the Columbia River.
Biking across the bridge with the Washington Bikes policy team, the wind whipping my hair beneath my helmet, felt like a movie scene. Desert cliffs and deep blue water filled my vision as I pedaled over the epic, 3,000-foot long bridge while the Columbia River flowed far below. A celebration awaited us at the south end of the bridge, where marching bands, politicians, and trail enthusiasts mingled.
Thanks to the dozens of organizations and committed citizens that worked tirelessly to fund and complete the trail, the Great American Rail-Trail that spans from Washington, D.C., to Washington state is now 53 percent complete, according to Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Project Manager Kevin Belanger.
A dozen speakers shared their contributions to the trail, including the Buck family, members of the Wanapum Tribe, whose ancestral home includes the riverbanks from Beverly to Pasco. “This is an old trail for our ancestors. It was built and widened for the wagons,” Johnny Buck said. “The opening of this trail connects us all now as one people. This bridge can help us cultivate relationships, grow our economies, and re-invest in our ancestral trails.”
Gov. Jay Inslee shared his pride in the connection that the Beverly Bridge makes possible across the state. “With the Beverly Bridge opening, there’s no Western Washington, there’s no Eastern Washington, there’s just one Washington,” Inslee said. “This trail is a national asset and a family asset, the past connecting with the future.”
Located in central Washington, the former railroad bridge cost $5.5 million to retrofit with added railings and decking that make it safe for people biking and walking.
“Absolutely spectacular” is how Fred Wert, chairperson of the Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition, describes the Beverly Bridge. “It is one of the few places where you can ride over the Columbia River that’s not on a highway. It’s peaceful and quiet, with huge terrain all around you.”
Riding Across Washington on Trails
“People will come from around the country to use this new bridge, both for short- and long-distance trips,” said Belanger.
Cascade Bicycle Club and Washington Bikes are members of the Palouse to Cascades Trail Coalition, and Washington Bikes pushed for full funding of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program that pays for trails including the Palouse to Cascades. Washington Bikes also supported a $5.7 million appropriation to the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation to fund the Beverly Bridge repairs.
"The Beverly Bridge is one of the most exciting new pieces of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure in the country,” said Alex Alston, state policy director for Washington Bikes. “Our goal is to create cross-state multi-use trails that improve rural economic development, attract bicycle tourists from around the region and world, and allow people to ride through Washington’s magnificent landscapes on off-road routes free of vehicle traffic.”
The Palouse to Cascades Trail
The Beverly Bridge project is part of about $10 million of work underway or recently completed on the Palouse to Cascades trail, which at 289-miles long is among the longest rail-trails in the nation.
At its westernmost point at Cedar Falls, near the town of North Bend, the Palouse to Cascades trail connects to the 30-mile Snoqualmie Valley Trail. The eventual goal is to connect the Palouse to Cascades to the many trails and routes that cross the Puget Sound region.
Other construction highlights on the Palouse to Cascades trail include:
Completion of the Renslow Trestle that crosses over Interstate 90 just east of Ellensburg. Opened to bikes in 2021, it eliminated a long detour.
Completion in 2022 of the two small Crab Creek Bridges that burned in 2020 and 2021.
Repairing two small bridges and resurfacing the trail between the small towns of Malden and Rosalia.
The addition of decking and railings to the Tekoa Trestle (pronounced Tee-Ko), a dramatic bridge about six miles from the Idaho border that passes through the middle of the town of Tekoa. State Parks officials hoped the work would be completed in 2022.
Washington’s Five Long Distance Trails
The Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail is one of five long-distance biking and hiking trails managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.
The Willapa Hills trail spans 56 miles from the agricultural lands of Chehalis to the coastal habitat of Willapa Bay. Read our post, “From Farmlands to Oyster Beds.”
The 31-mile Klickitat Trail that runs north to south between the towns of Klickitat and Lyle. The trail passes through the oak and pine forests of Swale Canyon, as well as rural farmlands in eastern Washington. Learn more on the state parks website.
The Spokane River Centennial Trail spans 40 miles between Spokane and the Idaho border, where it connects to Idaho’s North Idaho Centennial Trail that travels all the way to Coeur d’Alene. The state is resurfacing about 12 miles of asphalt on the trail, which has more than 40 historically important sites, according to the state parks website.
The 130-mile Columbia Plateau Trail is a work in progress with major potential for long-distance bike touring but no funding yet to complete the work. Running between Cheney, home to Eastern Washington University, and Pasco, at the confluence of the Columbia and Snake rivers, the trail has some rideable sections but is, for the most part, a hiking trail due to the rough and rocky conditions. The Columbia Plateau Trail intersects with the Palouse to Cascades, which provides impetus to efforts to make it rideable.
To continue progress on these trails, Washington Bikes will support full funding for the WWRP in 2023 when legislators take up the next biennial budget. Until then, get ready to ride over the Beverly Bridge. Bring a bike with fat tires for the gravel and sandy sections.
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