The road we took to the Cooper Spur trail on Mount Hood in Oregon, passes by the old Barlow Road, used by early pioneers on the Oregon Trail.
In the fall of 1845, the Samuel K. Barlow party from Independence, Mo. arrived at The Dalles. They found they would have to wait weeks for passage and could not afford the high price of food for themselves and their stock. Having seen a notch in the south slope of Mt. Hood, Barlow decided that"God never made a mountain that had no place to go over it or around it," and headed south to find a way around Mt. Hood. He was joined by several other parties, namely those of Joel Palmer and William Rector, until over 30 wagons made up the first train determined to cross the Cascades before winter snows fell.
Read more about his winter on Mount Hood here.
After the snowsmelted the following year, the groups returned for their wagons. Barlow petitioned the Provisional Legislature for the right to construct a toll road over the route taken by the party.
With a partner, Philip Foster, Barlow began road construction. It was a difficult road to build. There were miles of thickets and dense timber to slash through. Swamps had to be "courduroyed." There were steep hills and strems to cross. Barlow petitioned for $4000 to construct the road; he had estimated a rate of $50 a mile. But even in those days this was not an adequate amount and supplies had to be bought on credit. By August 1846 the road was was ready for travel.
Word that a wagon road had been completed was welcome news in The Dalles. The toll of $5.00 per wagon was much less than the cost of passage through the Gorge, and, it was said, the trip could be made in less than a week compared to nearly a month by the Gorge route.
Some of the enthusiasm ebbed, however, when pioneers saw the road. The ascent to Barlow Pass was difficult for oxen and travelers who had already trudged 2,000 miles. The road was a mere path between trees, going up steep grades, and crossing boulder-strewn ravines.
This photo shows a portion of the downhill northeastern side of the Barlow Road. I can't imagine coming down this steep, narrow grade in a wagon filled with belongings.
Photo: Cropped, Levels, Resized, Sharpened.