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Old Concrete Mile Markers on Old Oregon 23/US 197

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Yesterday I took the day off and ventured along the old Oregon 23/US 197 corridor between The Dalles and Maupin. I've been meaning to take that drive for at least 10-15 years, ever since someone on Panoramio posted 5 photos of old concrete mile markers that looked like the ones the State Highway Division posted along the Pacific, Columbia River and Old Oregon Trail Highways in 1924. For various reasons (theft, destruction, road widening, etc.), many of these markers did not survive to the present day, so I'm always down to go hunting for them along old highway alignments. Unfortunately I didn't snag copies or other information about the Panoramio photos before Google pulled the plug, so I didn't have any exact locations on any of the mile markers.. After doing a little bit of guesswork on where the first 12 or 13 might have been along the route, I ventured on my way with my camera.

To say it was a success was an understatement. Of the 5 that I was looking for (3, 9, 12, 18 and 19) I found 4 of them. Two of them were in excellent condition for their age. One was in pretty bad shape, and the other... well, I'll explain later. The only one I wasn't able to visit was 19.

I found mile marker 3 at a curve along this part of old OR-23. As you can see, it's seen some better days. Tons of exposed rebar, pieces missing, large cracks, you name it. The number is much less legible on the other side. It is currently being used to hold up a birdhouse on a pole -- though maybe the birdhouse is holding the milepost up.

By comparison, mile marker 9 is completely intact and looks beautiful. I found it just shy of old OR-23's intersection with Old Dufur Road/Emerson Loop Road. I was certainly impressed that it stuck around as long as it did, given I didn't find any other mile markers along the stretch of old OR-23 that was still open to vehicle traffic.

When exploring sections of OR-23 closed to vehicle traffic, however, I encountered this:

A virtually spotless mile marker 12, complete with view of central Oregon's rolling hills and the tip of Mount Hood, can be found along this old alignment. Aside from the deterioration of the road, this view was more or less what travelers along this route saw heading this direction until the highway was realigned in the mid-1960s. In my mind, this is just another instance where Oregon road planners of yesteryear took care to provide travelers with scenic opportunities while driving.

A little while after driving through Dufur, I pulled over in a wide area used for gravel storage, presumably by ODOT. The old highway likely passed along the western edge of this area, so I did a little bit of looking around. That's when I found this close to the road:

Unbeknownst to me at the time, what I found were the remains of mile marker 18. According to GSV imagery from May 2012, this post would have been here, near those three trees. I took some of screenshots from GSV that clearly show the post: 1 2

I have no idea what happened to it, but it's beyond repair regardless. It was found about 200 feet away from where it should have been placed. So far away, in fact, that I never even ended up exploring around where it used to be. I didn't see any sort of number when I tried to turn it over, so I'm guessing the number used to be on the right side.

As I mentioned previously, I was unable to locate or visit mile marker 19. This was for a couple reasons -- it was almost 100 degrees that day, and I likely would have needed to walk more than a mile and a half round trip to visit it. Plus, the road crossed at least one private fence, and I have no idea if the ROW is still owned by the highway department or the county, or if it's been turned over to abutting property owners. Regardless, I would love to go and see if 19 still exists someday. The marker itself would be in the vicinity of this stretch of old highway about 70 feet up from the present road.

I didn't see any other mileposts along my journey. However, there is another abandonned 2-mile long segment further south, between Tygh Valley and Maupin, that deserves a closer look one of these days. Again, it might be private -- a sign about 2/10ths of a mile down from the western end said the land was for members of Wilderness Unlimited and to "avoid arrest" :meh: Still, I wouldn't mind meeting up with some like-minded roadgeeks to check that road out one of these days, since I believe there's strength in numbers. (I suppose calling them to ask permission isn't out of the question either, but I doubt I'll get it without being a member.) That said, I wouldn't go again until I get the specific locations of where the mileposts were originally placed, so that we know what to look for in the right spots. Also, it would probably need to happen in the spring or the fall, since it's hot as hell in the summer and cold as hell in the winter.

I came across this on the Historic Columbia River Trail in the Mosier Twin Tunnels.  The flash photo is overexposed, but it's milepost 72.


--- Quote from: ErmineNotyours on June 04, 2021, 12:52:50 AM ---I came across this on the Historic Columbia River Trail in the Mosier Twin Tunnels.  The flash photo is overexposed, but it's milepost 72.

--- End quote ---

That one looks like one of the restored mileposts that were placed along the HCRH starting about 1992-93. There were only two or three of the original mileposts remaining when the HCRH was investigated by ODOT in the mid-1980s. MP 58 and MP 70 were the only ones explicitly mentioned in ODOT documents from that time period, but I managed to find milepost 14 last year in Wood Village that was of a similar style.

Here's a photo of original HCRH MP 58 taken in 2020 compared to one of restored HCRH MP 32 taken in 2013. Juxtaposed, differences can be seen:

The numerals on the original mileposts were thinner with a more ornate typeface (like Copperplate Gothic without the serifs) and a more obvious chiseled bevel appearance. By comparison, the numerals on the restored mileposts are thicker, blockier, and much less ornately beveled. Also, I don't believe the numerals on the original mileposts were ever painted, but restored ones are painted white, like the one in your photo.

In addition, those tunnels were only reopened in 2000 after a major overhaul, so MP 72 was likely placed at that time. This was the state of the tunnels prior to reopening:

First, great documentation of the concrete markers on old OR 23, Jonathan!  Makes me wonder what other old relics can be found on Oregon's many bypassed older highway alignments.

Here's another shot of the Mosier Twin Tunnels marker.  Also over-exposed in the flash, but the numbering is a little clearer:


--- Quote from: xonhulu on June 05, 2021, 01:54:59 PM ---First, great documentation of the concrete markers on old OR 23, Jonathan!  Makes me wonder what other old relics can be found on Oregon's many bypassed older highway alignments.

--- End quote ---

Thanks! I have a feeling that there are more somewhere further south. Aside from the segment outside Tygh Valley I mentioned, I could've sworn that someone once say on here that there may be some along former US-97 in the Cow Canyon/OR-293 junction area. There is a sizeable abandoned portion there, so it would just be a matter of travel, exploration and time.

As far as in other areas, I've been documenting these concrete mileposts wherever I could find them. I managed to get my hands on some emails and letters sent to ODOT when I visited their library in 2016 that alerted me to two that may be in the Grants Pass area along old US-99, as well as another that (as of 2011) resides in the Cottage Grove Museum. However, I've come to learn that the OSHD also used to use wooden mileposts at some point. Here's the only photo I have of one, from MP 116 along the John Day Highway (OR-19) from the Oregon Secretary of State Archives:

I estimate this photo was from some time in the late 1930s, maybe 1937-38, given that other photos in this set in the archive have been dated to those years. I have no idea where any other wooden posts might be placed (aside from along the John Day Highway), or if any have even survived this long.

--- Quote from: xonhulu on June 05, 2021, 01:54:59 PM ---Here's another shot of the Mosier Twin Tunnels marker.  Also over-exposed in the flash, but the numbering is a little clearer:
<snipping photo>

--- End quote ---

Thanks for the clearer shot. I did some manipulation in Photoshop of both your MP 72 photo and my MP 32 photo -- the more I look at the "2", the more it looks like a derivative of Transport:

Then I look at the MP 12 that I saw Tuesday, and it keeps looking like a Copperplate without the serifs:

Neither font matches the type on each post exactly, but they are similar in the shape of the lower part of the "2".


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