Another section of the Willapa Hills Trail was recently completed and opened to the public when the finishing touches were put on Bridge 23 in west Lewis County.
Located west of Pe Ell, the renovated bridge is part of an ongoing effort to connect Chehalis and Raymond via the Willapa Hills Trail. The walking and biking path follows closely along the Willapa and Chehalis rivers as it follows an old lumbering railroad grade.
“It’s pretty exciting. It’s a great opportunity,” said Lewis County Commissioner Gary Stamper. “I know they are trying to get all of the bridges connected so people can come out and ride all the way out there.”
According to Chris Brewer, a Lewis County employee who has worked for the Discover Lewis County website, a 1968 Northern Pacific Railway bridge book lists Bridge 23 as the tallest bridge along the trail. The deck is situated some 76 feet above the Chehalis River and the span, originally built in 1920, is listed at 236 feet in length.
Recent modifications to the bridge include installation of new decking and safety rails. With those updates complete, there is now 26 miles of continuously connected trail in Lewis County alone.
All told, some 28 miles of the trail have been resurfaced during the past 10 years.
According to Brewer, an avid cyclist, the best access to Bridge 23 can be had by heading west from the Willapa Hills Trailhead in downtown Pe Ell. That route will also take visitors over a small bridge span at mile 22 that crosses Stowe Creek.
“This is a very exciting time in the trail's development, and it is so neat to see people out here already enjoying it,” wrote Brewer in a social media post detailing the work at Bridge 23.
Brewer’s post added that there is still construction equipment around the trail and advised visitors to “be respectful of anyone who may still be working out there.”
Stamper sees the completed project as another successful step toward properly highlighting the natural and historic features of the area.
“We’re going to have the Willapa Hills Trail Ride again this year and there’s just a lot of opportunity and exposure for people to come to Lewis County,” said Stamper. “It’s a real good thing”