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US 395, Part 22: Umatilla County (Grant County to Pendleton/US 30/I-84; OR 37 to Holdman)

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Go to: Part 21 | Main 395 page | Part 23

Up into Pendleton from the Umatilla county line, US 395 is minimally changed from its original routing. Not until we enter Pendleton do we encounter a significant deviation of the original route.

[US 395 along US 730, 1966, 58K] Modern US 395 travels with Interstate 84 and US 30 west out of Pendleton, which we will travel in Part 23. This is a significant shortening of the older route, depicted at left, as well as in an excellent map on this fantastic US 730 page; click the condensed thumbnail on the right for a 57K wider view. As shown, until 1975, US 395 followed the routing of what is now present-day OR 37 north through Holdman to the banks of the Columbia River (east of OR 207), on what was and is OH #36 (Pendleton-Cold Springs Hwy), where it met US 730 and traveled east, co-routed with it, to the state line as OH #2 (Columbia River Hwy) and then to Wallula, WA. At Wallula, it met US 410 (modern US 12) and traveled northwesterly towards Pasco, WA, where it rejoins the modern alignment.

[US 395 along Umatilla-Stanfield Highway, OR 37 to Holdman, 1976] When I-84 (then I-80N) was completed in 1975, US 395 was routed along the Interstate to Stanfield on OH #6 (Old Oregon Trail) and then north along OH #54 (Umatilla-Stanfield Hwy) to modern-day Power City and south of Umatilla, replacing now-defunct OR 32, where it picked up US 730 as before; the now orphaned OH #36 and the portion of OH #28 (Pendleton-John Day Hwy) north of I-84 were assigned to OR 37. [Google Maps error showing OR 32, 2005] This intermediate routing stage is shown at the far right from 1976. Interestingly, old OR 32 still shows up on the NAVTEQ plot (see Google Maps, or the copy at near right).

Finally, when I-82 was completed in 1986-7, US 395 was placed on a direct routing via the western approach to Kennewick using OH #70 (McNary Hwy) to the Washington state line, and US 730 took over the remaining old routing, of which only a small portion remains co-signed with US 395 today.

When we reach Pendleton, we will split into two major Divisions -- the older Division through Holdman to Pasco via OR 37 and US 730, and the modern Division through Hermiston to Pasco via I-84, old OR 32 and I-82. Eventually I will combine the US 730 portion into a full US 730 exhibit split between the new exhibit and this one. For the trivia buffs, US 730 is the highest-numbered route still in the United States Numbered Highway System.

Umatilla county, like Grant county, is another castoff from the formerly much larger Wasco county. It was formed in 1862 with its temporary county seat in Marshall Station; it was subsequently moved to Umatilla Landing, now Umatilla, when gold was discovered nearby and then in 1868 to a new city erected specifically for the purpose, Pendleton itself. Pendleton, a city of 16,354 [2000], had existed as a small campsite along the Oregon Trail until settlers made a small encampment called Middleton around 1863. The later city was built around the encampment and named for Democratic vice-presidential candidate George H. Pendleton, who ran unsuccessfully with George McClellan against Lincoln and Johnson in 1864, and oddly seems to have no local connection as he spent the majority of his life in or representing the state of Ohio. Umatilla county has a population of 70,548 [2000] and was named for the Umatilla River, a corruption of youmalolam, its Indian name (apparently that also of the local tribe, today part of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation) as recorded by Lewis and Clark.


The fascinating rounded humped mountains overlooking the north fork of the John Day River as we cross the county line.

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Just past the Umatilla county line, we become the Ukiah-Dale Scenic Corridor.

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Crossing the north fork of the John Day River, looking downstream.

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Turn-off for one of the local forest roads, a gnarly drive through the hills.

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Brdg sgnage SB US 395 b4 we go.

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Also notice this bridge marker which ODOT is now regularly posting. It has both the route (ORS) number and the highway (OH#) number, along with milepoint (Mile 63.81) and a structure code. But they can spell North Fork out, but not RiVer?

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Upstream this time, as we curve over the bridge.

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NB US 395.

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All right! I'm gonna see Santa Claus!

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Signage as we enter the Bridge Creek Wildlife Area.

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Don't slip of the road. The creek runs parallel to us (at left).

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Some of the portions are cutouts from the rock.

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A little east of our north fork crossing, the north fork of the John Day River joins with a small creek tributary called Camas Creek that US 395 parallels for some miles. The name either comes from or is related to the camas flower a/k/a the Indian hyacinth (Camassia sp.), a member of the century plant family which was cultivated by the local Indians as a food source. Careful about trying this at home, as many similar-looking plants (especially lilies, with which the camas was once grouped) are inedible or even poisonous! This particular area has so many that one group of settlers once mistook a large patch for a lake; the name was also applied to the Camas Land Company that founded Camas Prairie in 1890 (which changed to Ukiah after the California city of the same name, itself named for a particular local band of California Pomo Indians).

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Mile 55. The creek is nestled into the gulch on the right.

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Curving around with the creek bed.

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Presently, the creek will divert off ...

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... and we will leave the National Forest for this junction with OR 244.

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We also lose our scenic corridor status, natch.

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Junction OR 244, the Blue Mountain Oregon Scenic Byway (but only part of the year because the rest of the year it's ugly, er, closed). This is OH #341 (Ukiah-Hilgard Hwy).

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Note that the road goes both directions, but OR 244 only travels one of them. The other side is FH 53, which, interestingly, is named (as the Western Route Road), and feeds the isolated western portion of the Umatilla National Forest. It is not part of OH #341, or indeed any part of the Oregon Highway System.

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Mile 48 through the valley.

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Beginning the ascent to Battle Mountain.

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Entering the Battle Mountain Scenic Corridor.

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Curving up to the summit.

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The passing lane on the ascent is definitely appreciated.

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Battle Mtn summit (4,270'), although once again Rand McNally demurs and fixes it at 4,255'. This is not part of the Umatilla NF according to my maps.

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Dropping down to the park. For some reason there is no passing lane on the upgrade.

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Battle Mtn monument. You can probably read this without my commentary, but in summary, Battle Mountain and its foothills were the site of the decisive battle of the Bannock (Indian) War -- thus the name. The war was originally waged in protest by the Bannock Indians against encroaching white settlers in Idaho, but was actually led by a Paiute named Chief Egan (the Egan in the original name of the city of Burns back in Part 19). Egan, at least initially, practised masterful diplomacy and was able to unite the Bannocks, the Paiute and the Snake Indians all under his command. With this large force at his disposal, Egan attempted to cut out from Idaho and capture the Blue Mountains; however, his forces were defeated outside of Burns near Silver Creek (Part 18) and he attempted to make a last stand in the Umatillas. Unfortunately, he fatally underestimated the determination of the United States Army and marched right into three regiments posted here on 8 July 1878. The result was a lopsided Army victory and Egan retreated with heavy losses; his remaining forces, angered by his command failure, turned on him and his scalp was delivered to the Army as the Indian forces dissolved.

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The Battle Mountain Park where again I had to do what everyone has to do every hundred miles or so.

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Distance signage on Battle Mountain leaving the park (we're traveling to the "left").

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Continuing the downward spiral, with the little Alexander Creek (a tributary of the John Day).

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Leaving the forest.

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End scenic corridor.

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Diverging west from the Blue Mountains back into the relative desert.

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Mile 34.

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The terrain starts to flatten out here, with only occasional escarpments and mesas.

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In the middle of one of these small gorges is this junction with OR 74 which enters Morrow county WB along OH #52 (Heppner Hwy).

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Distance signage.

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Mile 22.

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The territory starts to flatten as we get closer to the Umatilla River valley in which Pendleton sits.

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Entering Pilot Rock as Birch St, a small city of approximately 1,500 named for a large basalt bluff nearby.

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Continuing through town. Eventually, US 395 will veer east as 2nd St, and then northeast as Alder St to leave the city.

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Distance signage leaving town. Only one city left!

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Mile 13. There are possibly old alignments parallel to the highway at intervals.

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Some of these are abruptly barracaded off.

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On the way into Pendleton, we pass the McKay Creek National Wildlife Refuge. McKay, near as I can tell, is named for Alexander McKay, who accompanied Canadian explorer Alexander Mackenzie on the first successful transcontinental crossing of North American in 1793. The refuge covers 1,837 acres of open water, marsh and grassland.

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Mile 5, south of Pendleton.

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City limits.

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Overlooking the city as we approach Interstate 84.

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Junction I-84.

At this point, we will fork into Division 1, starting with a small portion of old US 395 (OR 37) in Pendleton, and Division 2, starting with the modern US 395 alignment along I-84 (in Part 23).

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Division 1: Old US 395 via Holdman (OR 37)

Old US 395 and modern OR 37 veer northeast from the I-84 junction as the continuation of OH #28 (Pendleton-John Day Hwy) on Frazer Ave NB and Emigrant Ave SB. Both then join and head northwest here on 17th St.

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They then turn northeast onto Court Place.

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US 395 signage posted perpendicular to the last guide sign.

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OR 37 then comes up to this complicated quasi-diamond with US 30 (more about US 30 in Part 23). This is the end of OH #28 (Pendleton-John Day Hwy); OR 37 sharply veers around to the left to join with US 30 along OH #67 (Pendleton Hwy).

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Note how the guide signs on EB US 30 don't give OR 37 as the through route since it ends right at I-84; instead, US 395 is signed (as it would have been historically done in the past; however, this is obviously not old signage due to the new MUTCD convention of enlarging the first letter of cardinal directions that this sign employs). US 30 in Pendleton is kind of an oddity anyway; many states would have simply routed it onto I-84 and made its old alignment a business route as US 30 splits off only a couple miles east of the town and rejoins the Interstate just west of it.

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From the WB side of US 30, the signage is rather spartan with just shields. Again, US 395 is signed as the through route, not OR 37; due to their apparent age, it is possible in this particular case that these are old signs that were never changed. We veer to the right to continue as WB US 30/NB OR 37 (and towards I-84, as the sign at right reminds us).

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Crossing over the Umatilla River on this new bridge parallel to the railroad.

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Bridge marker (US 30, OH #67, Mile 2.16). Ball Park refers to the local park erected nearby.

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Advance signage for OR 37 (and the continuation of Division 1).

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This newer crossing replaces the narrower and lower one below, which is still present and seems to be used for pedestrian and bike traffic now.

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Turn-off.

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Separation. We'll make a small detour by continuing with modern US 30 back to I-84 and US 395.

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Detour: US 30 to I-84 in Pendleton

WB US 30, through western Pendleton.

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The Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, formerly a state mental hospital but now a prison (since 1983). It is the source of the Prison Blues clothesline, manufactured by paid volunteer inmates who make denim blue jeans, coats and workshirts for other prisoners and for commercial sale. The operation is self-funding, and prisoners are paid at prevailing wage, which they can use in or after they leave prison, after taxes and restitution.

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Looking back at the city limits as we leave Pendleton along US 30, with this large wooden monument advertising the annual Pendleton Round-Up. A point of no small civic pride, inaugurated in 1909 and typically held the second week of September each year, it bills itself as "America's best rodeo" and features concerts, dances, art shows and a nightly pageant -- in addition to, of course, a rip-roarin' rodeo. The local Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation's large Happy Canyon Pageant pow-wow is held in conjunction.

Something they don't tell you about in the tourist brochures is that Pendleton had a very active sin industry, supporting as many as 18 whorehouses and 32 saloons during the late 1800s and early 1900s. A large network of underground tunnels, dug by Chinese labourers between 1870 and 1930, made up nearly 70 miles of indulgence between opium dens, prostitutes and Prohibition-era speakeasies (in addition to legitimate businesses such as butcher shops and the classic Chinese laundries). In 1989, the tunnels were restored -- but with mannequins this time (get your mind out of the gutter) and academic exhibits instead of, well, other things.

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Oregon Trail historic marker leaving Pendleton. This basically recapitulates the history of the town, so I'll just let you read it.

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Advance signage for I-84.

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Turn-off for the local airport just before the junction.

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Junction I-84. This is the end of OH #67 and US 30 joins US 395 and I-84 to head west. I am told, although possibly my local maps are not old enough to confirm, that Old US 30 continues south as the Old Pendleton River Road and parallels the Umatilla River for about twenty miles before resurfacing south of Stanfield (we see the other end in the next Part). This is no longer state highway, but might be worth a trip for US 30 enthusiasts.

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End Detour

Returning to OR 37 and OH #36 (Pendleton-Cold Springs Highway), we pass by a local community college at the turnoff.

During my initial run on this route, the combination of dust and amorphous cloud-filtered light led to an ethereal quality about the old highway that I have decided to preserve in these photographs for art's sake. It really emphasizes how lonely and isolated this routing is. Hardly any other cars were on OR 37 during the several hours I spent taking pictures on it.

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Looking back at the junction and the parallel railroad crossing, which is obviously still in use.

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Distance signage and first shield leaving Pendleton.

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It's a little hard to see here in this little snippet, but don't even think about throwing your burning trash away. Ah, fire hazards -- it's just like home.

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First milepost (Mile 30).

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OR 37/old US 395 makes a very broad curve leaving the city limits to switch back and head nearly straight north.

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Gentle hills and grasslands.

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Mile 24.

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One of only a few junctions of consequence, a small county road to Midway, a settlement a few miles east.

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An apparently little-used Grange hall at the intersection.

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Crossing the south fork of the Cold Springs Creek.

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Despite the sign, though, there is no water to be seen; only a arid landscape and blasted, gnarled skeletal trees remain.

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OR 37/old US 395 starts to wind about here as we start leaving the farmlands.

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Turning into the dusty beyond.

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Advance signage for OH #334 (Athena-Holdman Hwy), the only state highway we will intersect before reaching US 730. Although officially also OR 334, this routing was not signed when this photograph was taken (September 2007).

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Separation. OR 334/OH #334 diverges east to the small community of Athena, as the name implies, where it meets OR 11 to Walla Walla, WA (changing to WA 125 at the border). Although the similarly small community of Helix is also stated, it is not directly entered by OH #334.

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NB OR 37/old US 395 (but really more like west now).

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Skirting the friendlier farmlands which lie south, our northern road edge is pressed against the hills.

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Further in, however, we start to sink into the small gorge with which the middle fork of the Cold Springs Creek runs. This is the major reason why US 395 was realigned; there's just nowhere to widen the road.

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Mile 16.

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Note that on this sign, it is given as Cold Springs Canyon. Considering the water presence or relative lack thereof, I suppose accuracy is important.

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Curving around towards Holdman.

Continue to Part 23

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