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Signature Project: Cape Horn

Washington Trails Association is working on a collaborative effort to develop the Cape Horn trail from a series of user-built paths to a safe and sustainable route. When complete, the trail is bound to join the ranks of other Columbia River Gorge Classics like Angel’s Rest, Eagle Creek and Hamilton Mountain. Cape Horn features constant views of the Columbia River, abundant spring wildflowers, a pretty waterfall and rugged terrain that provides a good work-out for hikers. (Read our Hiking Guide description here.)

In May 2011, a break in highway work allowed WTA volunteers to return to the bridge site and begin construction of the sill foundations. Photo by Ryan Ojerio.

The Cape Horn Trail Recreation Plan, approved February 2010, defined which sections of the trail will be open to equestrians and mountain bikes, which sections will be hiker-only, the location of an ADA-accessible trail, and how to improve user safety and reduce impacts to sensitive wildlife. It was a long process, and not without some controversy. But the end result is that hikers and other users will have a fabulous place to visit with some of the best views in the Columbia Gorge - and the unique environment will be better protected as well.

WTA has been involved in the process for some time, and we were eager to get started once the plan was finalized. Generous grants from the National Forest Foundation (NFF) and the American Hiking Society, as well as gifts from Friends of the Gorge and many individual donors, allowed WTA to coordinate a series of work parties to build a new trail segment to bypass peregrine nesting sites. These funds are currently supporting the construction of a new foot-bridge and associated trail relocation to the new bridge site.

Volunteers work on a reroute of the Cape Horn trail in February 2011. Photo by Ryan Ojerio.

Bridge construction got underway during the fall of 2010, but exceptionally wet weather rendered the soil too wet to work on, and highway construction blocked the access needed to stage materials for the bridge project. Given those circumstances, the NFF granted an extension on the project through September of 2011, which also affords additional time to raise the remaining funds needed to receive the full $13,000 from the NFF grant. To date, donors have contributed $10,098 towards the 1-to-1 matching awards program grant, so we have just under $3,000 to go by September 15. (You can contribute to this effort by making a donation today.)

As spring gives way to summer, WTA volunteers will ramp up their activities on our projects at Cape Horn. WTA will be working on the bridge project and the ADA trail segment, as well as several reroutes that will relocate the trail where it is too steep and where it needs to be shifted in order to link to two new pedestrian underpasses that are under construction. These improvements to reduce erosion and increase safety are part of a suite of trail projects that WTA is leading throughout Skamania County supported in part by a grant from the South Gifford Pinchot Resource Advisory Committee (RAC). RAC funding will be used to hire a full time district crew leader who will focus on WTA’s signature projects at Cape Horn and Quartz Creek, as well as additional work in Indian Heaven and Trapper Creek Wilderness areas.

As you can see, we have a busy schedule ahead of us. Check out our volunteer work party schedule for weekday and weekend work parties at Cape Horn. These are posted a month in advance. If you’d like to help us meet our $13,000 goal for the NFF Matching Awards Program Grant, it is not too late to donate online. The NFF will match dollar-for-dollar, and the proceeds will go towards completing the new bridge.