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Big Loop Mystery On Yellowstone Trail Explained

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One of the little “mysteries” that I’m confident John and Alice Ridge have long ago solved, is why the Yellowstone Trail originally went so far to the south in the great loop from Spokane to Colfax, Walla Walla, Yakima, and Ellensburg, rather than straight across central Washington via the Sunset Highway alignment.


I came across a contemporary explanation the other day. Doing research on the old Pacific Highway, I came across a two year plus run of the Pacific Highway Association’s official publication. Because it was combined with the Seattle Automobile Club magazine, the magazine included road condition reports for all three western states.


The September 1915 number had the following under SPOKANE TO SEATTLE:


“Heavy dust and chuckholes prevail through central Washington at this time, and despite the fact that it is about 200 miles longer the route outlined below is the choice of many visiting motorists” The southern loop is then described.


The dust and chuckholes must have been pretty bad to justify a 200 mile “detour!”


Keep the Show on the Road!



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Well, we (John and Alice Ridge) have not "solved" the mystery of the Yellowstone Trail Association's choice of the southern route in Washington. But we do know that Blewett Pass on the northern route was hardly an auto road in 1915, so we have assumed that the Walla Walla route was chosen because it was a significantly better road. And the central route went through unpopulated areas and had an interesting ferry across the Columbia -- one that was known for breaking its cables and floating down river -- with cars and people. There must be some good stories about that.


I just made a rough estimate of the actual difference in distance and found it to be a bout 120, not 200. Truth is hard to find.


The YT was moved north in 1925 at the request of cities along the northern route and over the objections of several old-time members of the Association.


Always looking for better info about such things. Keep us in mind.


John R.

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Thanks for the expert insights!


It occurs to me that to have the Seattle Automobile Club “organ” commend the YT southern loop was significant in that travelers west bound on the loop were tempted to go to Portland instead of Seattle! Maybe the road reports writer didn’t remember who he worked for! :)


As I peruse the magazines, I’ll look for other YT related items.


Keep the Show on the Road!




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