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Surveyors discover lost 19th century telegraph path used by Corbett residents

OUTLOOK PHOTO: MATT DEBOW - Dave Wand explains how he researched the Wire Trail at the Troutdale Historical Societys quarterly meeting on Sunday, Jan. 20. Last September, two local historians found more evidence of a long-abandoned trail when a Corbett resident informed them he found cedar telegraph poles still standing in the Latourell area.

Dave Wand and Larry McGinnis have been retracing, researching and exploring the path commonly called the Wire Trail — one of the oldest-known trails in the Columbia River Gorge area. The path was used by indigenous people and Corbett-area settlers as a means of pedestrian transportation. The trail was not maintained after the turn of the 20th century, and only remnants remain.

Wand and McGinnis spoke about their surveying adventures during Troutdale Historical Society's quarterly meeting on Sunday, Jan. 20, in the Sam Cox Building at Glenn Otto Park in Troutdale.

The Wire Trail earned its moniker because the Oregon Steam Navigation (OSN) company used portions of the trail to construct one of Oregon's first telegraph wire systems, Wand said. The telegraph line stretched from downtown Portland to The Dalles and operated for approximately 13 years from 1868 to about 1883

Near the Latourell Falls trail, Wand and McGinnis discovered nine original cedar poles. Each pole contained markings, indicating they were used for the OSN telegraph system.

"What's thrilling about that is we were looking at poles in Latourell Falls that are the same poles constructed 150 years ago," Wand said.

The modern-day explorers first suspected that they found parts of the Wire Trail when they were hiking over wheel ruts on the ground years before discovering the telegraph poles.

"I wouldn't be surprised if this was the same trail," Wand recalled of the experience.

The surveyors have now discovered where the first 24 miles of telegraph wire were placed and are now planning to research and explore the portion of Wire Trail east of the Latourell community.

McGinnis said the most important aspect of researching the path is getting out into the field and having fun.

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