The Great American Rail-Trail will eventually traverse 3,700 miles between Washington, D.C., and Washington State. Learn more about the preferred route, which is 53% complete.
It’s hard not to be impressed standing on the Beverly Bridge in Washington. To the west: foothills that rise over 1,000 feet above the Columbia River below, teasing the Cascade Range and Mount Rainier. To the east: the beginnings of the channeled scablands that mark swaths of the eastern part of the state. And while you stand on the nearly-mile-long bridge, you overlook the river itself, a mighty body of water that was once a barrier to nonmotorized trail travel across Washington along the 285-mile developing Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail.
On April 8, 2022, a ribbon cutting marked a new beginning for the Beverly Bridge—gathering more than 200 people to celebrate its long-anticipated revitalization after years of advocacy from organizations around the state. For the first time since the bridge was closed in 1980 as part of the disused Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad, people can cross the Columbia River on this iconic piece of infrastructure. But instead of carrying trains, the Beverly Bridge now carries nonmotorized trail users as part of a $5.5 million retrofit by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, which includes new decking, new railings and seven viewing platforms to enjoy the region’s stunning Tatooine-like landscape.
The revitalized bridge now serves as a critical gateway for communities on both sides of the Columbia River, along the larger trail route that travels between Cedar Falls and the Idaho Border, where trail advocates recently celebrated the opening of the historic 975-foot Tekoa Trestle. "There is no Western Washington. There is no Eastern Washington,” said Gov. Jay Inslee, who served as a keynote for the dedication. “With the Beverly Bridge, there’s one Washington.”
The enthusiasm from the crowd gathered at the bridge dedication was unfettered by the area’s characteristic winds. People gathered from all over the state to be the first to cross the bridge on foot, on bike, and even on horseback. A band from the local high school was on hand to lend its talents to the energy of the occasion—and following a series of inspirational speeches from state and local dignitaries, the band led the group on the first official journey across the bridge.
With the potential to become a destination in and of itself, the bridge will help promote long-distance walking and bicycling trips along the lesser ridden eastern side of the Palouse to Cascades trail route—which will eventually connect into Idaho as part of the 3,700-mile developing Great American Rail-Trail®.
The trail has always had significant economic development potential for communities along its path, and with its new connectivity and status as gateway for the Great American, those opportunities can be realized tenfold.
Communities on the easter side of the bridge, like Malden—which was decimated by the Babb Road fire in September 2020—could especially use the power of the trail to bring in tourism as it recovers.
“The opening of the Beverly Bridge marks a long-awaited milestone for trails in Washington and for the entire Great American Rail-Trail,” said Marianne Wesley Fowler, RTC’s senior strategist for policy advocacy and a long-time advocate for the Great American. “Washington and the Palouse to Cascades State Park Trail have been forebearers of the rail-trail movement for decades. The promise the bridge holds for the region carries forward their legacy of trail leadership and the potential to bring health and economic opportunity to the dozens of communities the trail serves on the east and west sides of the river.”
For some local trail advocates, the bridge is another opportunity to provide everyone—visitors and residents—an opportunity to connect and respect a revered and spiritual region of land.
As Lila Buck, a representative of the Wanapum Tribe stated: “[U]nderstand that this place is still sacred to our people, the lands that you are walking across, the water, are still sacred to our people.”
The reverence for this location was apparent throughout the event and proved inspirational to all in attendance.
Today, we take a moment to pause and celebrate the revitalization of the Beverly Bridge and give thanks for those who shared the vision to save it for future generations.