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In 1903, the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad built the original railroad linking Lyle and Goldendale to transport crops, lumber and livestock. Passenger service existed for several years during the 1920s between Portland, Oregon, and Goldendale, Washington. Lumber was king and the railroad was an important part of its transport until the 1980s.It was abandoned in 1992 following the decline of the lumber mill in the town of Klickitat and the mill in Goldendale. The railroad right-of-way was purchased in 1993 by the national Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. Ownership of the rail line was transferred to Washington State Parks in 1994. Despite some local opposition, public support prevailed. In 2003, local supporters of the Trail formed the Klickitat Trail Conservancy (KTC). The Trail, a public right of way, is now managed cooperatively by Washington State, the U.S. Forest Service, and the KTC. In 2007-2008, the U.S. Forest Service completed its Trail management and development plan which includes a partnership with the Klickitat Trail Conservancy and Washington State Parks. This is the plan under which all three organizations are currently working.

                                                                                                                                                 Photo: Curtis Heikkinen

We began organizing our first Saturday hikes in August 2002, which planted the seeds for an organization that was to become the Klickitat Trail Conservancy. Since then, our group of supporters and trail users has taken root, committed to making the dream of an improved Klickitat Trail become a reality.

The first few years of organization were action packed and much has been accomplished through the efforts of many individuals:

  • Formation of the Klickitat Trail Conservancy, a non-profit organization with IRS-designated 501(c) (3) status.
  • Formation of a board of directors to help the organization prosper and ensure progress in trail projects and improvement, as well as to communicate with Washington State Parks and the U.S. Forest Service.
  • Countless hours of volunteer efforts conducting regular trail maintenance activities.
  • Decked trestles, built information kiosks, installed gates, bollards, signs, creek crossings, and performed other construction to make the trail functional.
  • Organized a series of spring and fall hikes and mountain bike rides on various sections of the trail.
  • Placement of toilets at trailheads.
  • Interpretive kids’ hikes in Klickitat and Lyle.
  • Through Washington State Parks, ongoing communication with the staff of the Yakama to learn how we can help restore salmon runs in Swale Canyon.
  • Launched a website and email listserv.
  • Improved relations with adjacent landowners and those originally opposed to the trail.
  • Presentation of $5,000 to Washington State Parks Commission, meeting the financial commitment we made to offset costs incurred by their lifting of the trail closure in February 2003.