Deschutes State Park

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This is the home stretch, an easy 17 miles on a clear grade downriver. It's a nice ride even as a 34-mile out-n-back. It should be as much fun and less work on a one-way through-bike.

The only trick is finding an easy place to come ashore, with a trail up to the grade. "Snake-in-the-Box" looks like the first possibility to the grade below RM 20. All the sites I checked had good landings, vault toilets, and grade access.

The first landmark on the grade northbound is the 1909 Deschutes Railroad water tower at RM 12 and Harris Canyon. It was spring-fed, and water was flowing across the trail when I passed 6/19/2012. There's a steep dirt wagon road heading up the side canyon, probably passing the spring on its way out.

Steam locomotives are thirsty beasts. 8 water towers were built to serve them - this is the sole survivor, still standing thanks to a number of people and organizations in Sherman County.

The next point of historical interest is the Harris Ranch. Some have taken this southern-most structure for a railroad depot. It looks it and it's built right along the grade, but I think it's more likely a ranch hand's quarters.

This 1920s Union Pacific system map shows a stop at "Harris", but I think if this was a railroad depot, it'd be built with the main floor at the same height as freight and express car floors. I guess Harris was a whistle stop for when the ranch had livestock or produce to ship, or supplies coming in.

The main ranch house is a little further north, about ready to fall in on itself.

John E. Harris homesteaded this ranch in 1873. He built the first bridge at Free Bridge, and the ranch supported livestock, fruit, and vegetables. It changed hands over the years and was eventually sold to the state.

There are 2 old rail cars along the grade. One's pretty clean, the other pretty ratty. They may've been camps for section workers, or for crews working to clear slides or other occasional damage.

 

It doesn't take long to cover the miles on the gentle downgrade into the Columbia Gorge. For those planning an out-n-back ride from the state park, I did the 34 miles in 9 hours, in no rush.

To wrap up, there are some sights of interest along the Columbia.