History of Barlow Pass Tollgate
Pioneer Samuel Barlow left Illinois with his family on March 30, 1845. They loaded all their belongings into four wagons and journeyed west using the Oregon Trail. The last part of the family’s journey was supposed to consist of a stop at The Dalles followed by a trip down the river by ferries to their ultimate destination of Oregon City. When Barlow’s wagon train arrived, there were two boats ferrying wagons from one city to the next for exorbitant prices, as well as a long wait. Barlow took the initiative in finding a second route to Oregon City over land, therefore bypassing the long wait and expensive toll the ferries required. With the help of Joel Palmer, another adventurous pioneer, they led 30 wagons to create the new trail. It took them from September 26 to December 25, 1845, to reach their destination.
After Barlow petitioned the territorial Assembly in 1846, he was granted the right to construct a toll road along his trail, in the hopes that he could gain a profit from his adventures. In creating access to this road, Barlow effectively completed the Oregon Trail over land to the town of Oregon City. The original cost of the road was underestimated at costing $4,000 to construct and even with a toll of $5 per wagon Samuel Barlow was never able to make a profit. The road went through numerous owners for about 70 years until 1919 when the Oregon State Highway Commission took ownership.
It was not until 1920, when the road was modernized for automobiles, that it finally became a two-way road, and eventually would become the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway. The Barlow Road became the first highway in Oregon west of The Cascades, as well as helping to make Mount Hood the region’s first automobile accessible mountain area. Today, the original trail and some offshoots are still visible to travelers providing a view of living history that is still discernible within the Mt. Hood National Forest.
Fun Fact: Devil’s Half Acre dispersed campsite is thought to be the site of Fort Deposit – an area where the initial party with Samuel Barlow and Joel Palmer, the leaders of the two groups of pioneers, rested in 1845 to get their bearings.