June 25, 2008

New Franklin County Trail Opens for Hikers, Bikers, Riders (W/Video)

By John Trumbo, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.

Jun. 25--Hikers and bikers have a new path to explore on the Franklin County side of the Snake River.

A 15-mile section of the Columbia Plateau Trail, beginning at Ice Harbor Dam, leads through several wildlife areas and day use facilities as far as the Snake River Junction Trailhead.

State officials dedicated the reworked trail segment Tuesday, noting it's an important part of state efforts to complete several cross-state trails in time for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission's centennial observance.

The 10-foot-wide trail is for hikers, bikers and horseback riders only. It follows the old railroad bed of the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad, acquired by state parks in 1991 after the Burlington Northern railroad abandoned it as right of way.

Rex Derr, director of state parks, said a rock crusher helped break down the railroad ballast into gravel to make an ideal biking and walking path. The new section is part of a 130-mile Columbia Plateau Trail that runs from the Tri-Cities to Cheney along the old SP&S tracks.

"This ties in beautifully to what the Army Corps of Engineers has done to create wildlife areas and day use areas," said Derr, who attended the ribbon-snipping event.

Trail riders who go northeast from Ice Harbor Dam will come upon a day use area called Levey Park after traveling three miles, and then after a few more miles encounter Big Flat, where camping is allowed.

Continuing on will bring the day tripper to the day use area called Lost Island. After going the full 15 miles, riders and walkers will reach Snake River Junction Trailhead, another area suitable for camping.

Most of the trail is within sight distance of the Snake River, and the going is easy because the old railroad route has about 1 percent grade.

The scenery consists of open landscapes, with interpretive information on geologic and historic features along the trail.

The improvements were completed with help from the Federal Highway Administration and cooperation from the Corps, the state Department of Transportation, Backcountry Horsemen and the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

To get to the trailhead at Ice Harbor Dam, take Highway 12 east toward Walla Walla, then take the Pasco-Kahlotus Highway north for about 8.2 miles, turn right onto Ice Harbor Dam Road for 2.5 miles, following the signs to the boat launch area for trailhead parking.


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Copyright (c) 2008, Tri-City Herald, Kennewick, Wash.

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