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US 395, Part 29: Stevens County (Old US 395/WA 292/WA 231 in Loon Lake, Springdale, Valley; Chewelah; Colville)

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Go to: Part 28 | Main 395 page | Part 30

Stevens county is our next stop. Named for Washington's first territorial governor, Isaac Stevens, it has 40,066 [2000] residents, 4,988 [2000] of them in Colville, the seat and largest city. Colville is named for Fort Colville, established in 1825 and named for Lord Andrew Colville (say CAWL-ville, not COHL-ville), one of the British governors of the Hudson Bay Company, originally located near what is now Kettle Falls and presently under the waters of Lake Roosevelt. The original Fort Colville was abandoned when the British principals of the Hudson's Bay Co. bailed out in 1871 after the formation of the Washington territory and a second one was created by the Army Infantry close to where the town site is today. Incidentally, Colville is unrelated to Coleville in California (see Part 9).

Stevens county was originally part of Spokane county. In 1864, the whole of Spokane county, along with several surrounding counties, was reorganized into the new Stevens county, with its seat at Colville. (Although Colville was Stevens county's only county seat, it was not formally established as a a town until the Infantry decommissioned the fort in 1882.) This persisted until 1879, when Spokane county reasserted itself. After that, Stevens county was subsequently divided down into smaller and smaller slivers with its castoffs becoming independent counties themselves, most recently Ferry county (in Part 30), and finally Pend Oreille county in 1911.

[Old US 395 western route and WA 3J, 1946] US 395's course in Stevens county has been realigned and straightened somewhat over the years. Its most significant realignment was an eastern bypass of Loon Lake, built 1957-9; old US 395 from Springdale to Chewelah was added to WA 3J (SSH) and the remaining alignment left unmarked. The original routing is shown in the 1946 map inset at left; note how the route US 395 would eventually take to the east already existed. WA 3J was extended further south to US 2 in 1963; after the Washington state highway renumbering, WA 3J in its entirety became WA 231, and the branch from new US 395 to WA 231 (the leftover alignment which was also old US 395) was resurrected as WA 292. WA 292 and WA 231 will be both part of our Fork 1, with Fork 2 the modern eastern cutoff routing.

There are also several shorter bypassed sections south of Colville that we will travel and these seem nearly intact. It is unclear when they were bypassed, but they were likely done in the 1960s.


Clayton, a small village northeast of the highway. It is unclear if there was a US 395 alignment in town, but if so, its probable route approximated (south to north) Furze Rd to Railroad Ave, and back to mainline US 395. This was probably bypassed around the same time as the Old Arden Highway, which we will come to presently.

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Mile 189.

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Loon Lake, a small resort community. This is where I got pulled over by a Stevens County deputy sheriff. The conversation went a little like this:

     "What's wrong, Officer?"
     "Well, sir," said the deputy, "I got the strangest call about you. Seems there was someone following you a while back and noticed you kept pulling over and sticking something out the car window." (The camera.) "He wondered if you were sick or something."
     Distantly I remembered this gold car that always seemed to pull over when I did over the last five miles or so and laughed inwardly.
     "Hang on and let me show you," I said.
     So I showed him what pictures were on the Nikon that morning (basically everything from the Budget Inn in Spokane north), and he was suitably impressed. "Do you have a sponsor?" he asked.
     "No," I said, "just doing it because I always wanted to see the end."
     "Ah," he said, getting it, "and you'll always be able to travel it in photographs."
     I nodded and smiled. "That's it, exactly."

I forgot to write down his name, but I've got an address for the county sheriff's office to drop them a line. I'm sure he'll remember.

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WA 292 through Loon Lake and Springdale, the southern diversion of US 395's old alignment. Note the change in asphalt coming up to the bypassed section. Here we split into our two forks; we will start with old US 395 along WA 292 and WA 231.

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Fork 1: Old US 395 via Loon Lake, Springdale and Valley (WA 292, WA 231)

Looking back at the US 395/WA 292 junction.

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However, the original alignment of US 395 didn't run along modern WA 292, which occupies a later-built semi-bypass around Loon Lake proper. Instead, we immediately turn right after the junction onto what is variously signed as Colville Rd or Loon Lake-Dinner Bell Rd, which seems much more prosaic and delicious.

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Once we have curved around and started heading west, we become Colville Rd proper into Loon Lake.

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The local post office.

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"Downtown" Loon Lake.

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Colville Rd signage at Maple St.

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The charming old Loon Lake Schoolhouse. This school house was built in 1929 for the 1st through 8th grades and was the regular school and community centre until 1992 when the new school was built. The building was carefully restored and remains a community meeting place and treasure today. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Western edge of Loon Lake.

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Junction WA 292.

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Just as a detour, for completeness, I'll do WA 292 even though I have no evidence that this bypass was ever part of US 395.

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Curving around south of Loon Lake.

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Signage for the schoolhouse.

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Junction Colville Rd.

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Mile 5.

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West of Loon Lake, WA 292 has been realigned in at least two places, one for certain, and one probably. This is the probable realignment; it seems that a now obliterated alignment went due west of Colville Rd to reintersect the later highway about a half mile down (essentially the chord instead of the arc of the circle).

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Crossing under the railroad.

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The second realignment is around this area, using what is marked on various plots as Old Hwy East Springdale Rd. This road is inconsistently shown as continuous, based on whatever map service was plotting it at the time, so I will skip it also.

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Advance signage for the terminus of WA 292 at WA 231.

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Entering Springdale.

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This is the end of WA 292. We turn right to continue the old US 395 alignment along modern WA 231.

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WA 231 immediately curves sharply into Springdale, heralded by this older-style shield.

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Looking back at the WA 292 junction as we leave it behind.

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Springdale. This small town has 283 residents [2000], and was incorporated in 1903.

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You lucky duck, guess where we're gonna fish! (Parallel to the main drag.)

On the other hand, fishing for juveniles just doesn't seem legal in most jurisdictions.

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The picturesque town hall.

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Leaving Springdale and the unfortunate people in its dentist's chair.

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An old small box culvert along the highway, probably from US 395 days.

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Turn-off for Hunters.

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NB WA 231.

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Distance signage to Chewelah and Colville, neither of which WA 231 reaches (but US 395 does, of course).

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Through the picturesque rolling hills.

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A number of farms and rangeland areas sit in this valley.

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Mile 68.

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WA 231/old US 395 takes a sharp jog as it prepares to cross the railroad.

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Over the tracks. The highway will tightly hug the railroad to its west until just north of Valley, when it will plunge east back to the modern US 395 routing.

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Coming to this otherwise non-descript junction just over the railroad, this new sign shows this road, today simply signed Bulldog Creek Rd, as a minor local connector.

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However, looking southbound, we see this much bigger sign with greenout obviously covering some sort of shield marker. Indeed, Bulldog Creek Rd was state highway, namely WA 232, which was decommissioned in 1992. It only ever ran between WA 231 and US 395 as a small spur during its existence; it was first commissioned as WA 3U (SSH) after US 395 was moved east. It is not a former alignment of US 395 or WA 231.

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Mile 71.

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The busy railroad lines beside us.

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The small town of Valley is heralded by this pedestrian warning marker. Little else alerts us to its presence other than the nearby houses.

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Curving through Valley.

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Leaving town just as quickly.

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Only this small marker along the railroad tells us of the town, which from our perspective was after the fact.

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Moving back into the forested higher hills as we leave the railroad, back towards mainline US 395 and the end of our old routing.

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NB WA 231/old US 395.

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Advance signage for the junction, with this older JCT marker and shield.

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Mile 75, our last milepost for WA 231.

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End WA 231 at US 395.

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Fork 2: Modern US 395

Back to Loon Lake, where we continue on the modern eastern bypass routing with this distance signage at Mile 191. Compared with WA 231, this is a much straighter, less interesting highway.

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NB US 395.

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Picking up WA 231 into Chewelah.

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This valley is a gentle respite from the mountainous territory around it.

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Chewelah city limits (and an interesting civic traffic law prominently posted). With a [2000] population of 2,186, the name Chewelah (say chuh-WEE-lah) comes from a local Indian term for a variety of snake presumably indigenous to the valley. After the discovery of the Old Dominion Mine near Colville in the 1880s and nearby Embry Camp's silver and lead deposits in 1883, a stampede of prospectors descended on the region and settled in the valley to form what was called Chiel-Charle-Mous by the 1890s. The modern city was incorporated in 1903.

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There isn't a great deal to Chewelah now, although there is a (small) local Indian casino and this charming downtown district. Although mining remained a productive local pursuit (particularly silver, lead and zinc) into the 1950s, most of the major activity had ceased with the depletion of the strikes by the turn of the 20th century. By 1910, Chewelah had largely left its boomtown mining days behind. Here is a brief local history.

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First signage for a Canadian destination. No route signed with the number 395 directly reaches Grand Forks, BC, however (see the Epilogue [Part 31] about that). Note how Grand Forks is mistakenly rendered as "Grandforks."

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Addy, another small local village.

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A few small businesses and nearby homes make up this roadside community.

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The hills are a little gentler here as we get to the northern end of the valley, but still moderately heavily forested.

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Fork 1: Old US 395 (Old Highway 12 Mile Rd)

At this point, we come to the first of our two bypassed sections of US 395 which are relatively short and are very old sections of road that have been quite well preserved, so we will go for these. (There is another possible old alignment south of this on McLean Rd, but I don't have enough evidence for it on my map data.) We turn off the highway.

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Old Hwy 12 Mile Rd runs through a small village of homes east of the main highway. NAVTEQ incorrectly signs this as "Old WA-12 Mile Rd" (i.e., Old Highway 12 Mile Rd, not Old Hwy 12 Mile Road) but there is no evidence that WA 12 nor WA 12 (PSH) even existed in eastern Washington state (see Google Maps).

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Looking at the straightened portion of the highway just west. Best guess says this was done sometime in the 1960s.

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Continuing on NB Old Hwy 12 Mile Rd. Note the age of the road and design standards.

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After a small jaunt, the old highway alignment swings back to join mainline US 395.

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Fork 2: Mainline US 395

Kind of a waste to call two photographs a fork, but this is the parallel alignment north of the view of the modern highway we took showing the northern junction of the old bypassed alignment.

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After a bit, we come up to the Old Arden Highway, the second bypassed portion.

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Fork 1: Old US 395 (Old Arden Highway)

Turning right onto Old Arden Highway.

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I still don't understand the standards used for erecting these signs. Arden, which this highway runs through, is a small village south of Colville.

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The asphalt here is about the same age, roughly, as that on Old Hwy 12 Mile Rd which gives consideration to the possibility they were once a unified alignment and bypassed at around the same time.

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Through some of the residential areas we go over small creek crossings like this one, probably dating back to WA 3 (PSH)/US 395's original construction. This creek appears to be part of the Little Pend Oreille, a branch of the Pend Oreille River and another tributary of the Columbia (named for the Pend D'Oreille "earring" Indian tribe, so-called by the French because of their jewelry).

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Eventually the houses space out into small ranches on the north end of the alignment.

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Back to mainline US 395.

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Fork 2: Mainline US 395

There's not much to tell about the later straightened alignment except that, well, it's straighter.

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Coming up on the northern terminus of the Old Arden Hwy.

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Continuing with the forks unified as NB US 395.

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Colville city limits. The sign reads, "Colville is designated a heritage community founded during Washington's territorial period of 1853-1889; Territorial Sesquicentennial, Territory of Washington, 1853-2003."

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Entering town.

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Traffic circles are not often seen on the US west coast, let alone traffic ellipses, as it were.

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Circling around to become Main St entering town.

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At 3rd Avenue, US 395 picks up WA 20. WA 20 is a major east-west artery through northern Washington state, running from US 101 on the Pacific coast to US 2 in Newport; it is currently the longest highway in the Washington state highway system at 436.55 miles and even carries a spur route (old WA 536) with a ferry "alignment" to Sidney, BC. We continue straight ahead as Main St NB US 395/WB WA 20.

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Little US 395 shields decorate the Main St signage.

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At the north end of town, US 395/WA 20 bends off to the left and Main St continues on alone straight ahead.

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Leaving town.

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NB US 395/WB WA 20 and distance signage.

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Mile 236.

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Kettle Falls, remembering days of hot chicks past (specifically 1992). Also, I did not meet the grouch; as the 2000 census puts the population at 1,527, there would only be 0.985 grouches proportionally speaking anyway.

Kettle Falls is named for a certain falls (now lost underwater) along the Kettle River, which appears to derive its name from the falls. Early French Canadian explorers in the area remarked that the deep indentations in the rocky bottom of the fall looked like cauldrons, caused by fast-falling rocks and the constant scraping action of the merciless water. The falls, which the voyageurs dubbed "La Chaudière" (The Kettle), was also important to the local Indian tribes long before its discovery by Canadian explorer David Thompson in 1811. As many as fourteen tribes came to the falls annually to set up fishing baskets and apparatuses in a carefully organized "fishing season," administered by a consensus figure known as the Chief of the Waters who decided when the season started, where baskets could be situated, and how the catch was to be divided. Indeed, the system rivaled many of the fish and game networks we use today and was based on thoroughly researched observations of the fish and their habits so as not to deplete the resource ignorantly. The falls were astoundingly rich in salmon, sometimes yielding nearly 3,000 fish a day. Once settlers found out about it, canneries descended on the region and the river mouth starting in the 1860s and with the Indian's carefully constructed conservation system gone to pot, the falls' fish output plummeted within a few decades.

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If it seems strange to you that the falls the town is named for is now gone, that's okay, because the original 1891 town is gone too due to the significant damming in the region that occurred afterwards. Established as a resort town by Spokane businessmen to take advantage of the beautiful scenery and fishing, their grand ideas met a grim, watery fate. The first Columbia River dam, the Rock Island Dam in central Washington, cut fish output to just a few hundred in 1930 one year after its completion. Fish ladders helped the remaining salmon to cross the 40' dam, but there was no way any salmon could scale the incomprehensibly huge 550' Grand Coulee Dam completed in 1941 (built by my late distant relative Henry J. Kaiser); as a result, the Grand Coulee effectively ended salmon and steelhead migration in the upper Columbia Basin and its reservoir slowly lurched back to envelope the falls, the original old Fort Colville and the original town under the waters of modern Lake Roosevelt. Three weeks before the waters rose, the Indian tribes that once fished there held three days of ceremonial mourning before their hallowed falls were lost forever. Almost ten thousand attended.

[US 395/Kettle Falls before and after Grand Coulee, 1938, 1941, 63K] The modern town is actually old Meyers Falls, where the several hundred former residents of the old Kettle Falls fled as the waters backed up behind the construction of Coulee Dam; the town changed its name soon afterwards. Click the thumbnail at right for a 63K view showing the region before and after Lake Roosevelt formed; the left side, from 1938, shows both Meyers Falls and Kettle Falls with a jog in US 395 to the south to service both communities and then back north. By 1941, as the dam neared completion and the waters proceeded back, only "new" Kettle Falls remained with US 395 rerouted to the north over the Lake. Despite the change in names, the main drag is still called Meyers St, shown here; modern US 395 largely bypasses the town.

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Advance signage for WA 25, shown as WA 22 (PSH) on the above map, on the west end of modern Kettle Falls.

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WA 25 junction, a moderately significant eastern state arterial between US 2 and the border at Northport. Its original designation as WA 22 (PSH) is still remembered by British Columbia; it turns into BC 22 at the border and its suffixed spur WA 22A (SSH), later WA 251 and now abandoned, still "exists" as BC 22A as well. This is relatively well-demonstrated on the "BC 395" map in the Epilogue when we get over the Canadian border.

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NB US 395/WB WA 20.

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Distance signage.

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Coming up on the third and final crossing of the Columbia, which marks the northern end of Stevens county, and Lake Roosevelt.

Continue to Part 30

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