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Yakima Valley Regional Library - Clippings, Chinook Pass

Yakima Herald-Republic, 25 July 1976 - Helland, Maurice, "Chinook Pass road took years to build"

Work on the Yakima side of the Chinook Pass highway began in May 1914. Sam Normile contracted, sight unseen, to build the section of highway from Morse Creek to the pass, now known as the Normile Grade. It took until late September to finish the first rough construction work on the grade. Work on other portions of the highway had not been contracted, "so the Normile section stretched from nowhere to nowhere." Due to washouts that winter, dwindling mining activity in the area, and the threat of U.S. involvement in World War I, work on the pass highway was abandoned.

The project wasn't revived until the fall of 1921. Work concentrated on American River, below the grade. In the four years that followed, work progressed up the grade, using manual and horse-powered labor. It wasn't until 1924 that an Army tractor was brought in to speed the work. As the road from the east side drew closer to the summit, it became a popular weekend pastime for Yakima Valley motorists to drive as far as possible up the mountain. Construction on the west side was far behind schedule. The west and east portions of the highway finally met in the summer of 1931. A celebration was arranged at Tipsoo Lake and an estimated 7,000 cars made the trip, with another 1,000 turned back for lack of parking space.

Many felt that the logical route would have been over Naches Pass, the historic cross-Cascade route to the north. Before the Chinook Pass highway was constructed, the route had never before been passable even to a man on muleback. Proponents of Naches Pass pointed that Chinook could never be an all-season highway, while construction of a fairly short tunnel could keep the Naches Pass road low enough to permit year-round travel. Cost of the tunnel was the problem. So Chinook Pass continues as the scenic summer route on the north side ot Mt Rainier, while the newer White Pass highway provides an all-year route to the south of the mountain.

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