ONEONTA TUNNEL is one of four tunnels on the Historic Columbia River Highway.
The Historic Columbia River Highway's alignment from Crown Point, milepost 23.9, to Horsetail Falls Bridge, milepost 34.6, takes the highway along one of the largest concentrations of high waterfalls in North America
. Near its eastern end lies Oneonta Creek and Gorge. The name ''Oneonta,'' according to Oregon Geographic Names originates in Oneonta, New York, and means "place of peace". The Oregon Steam Navigation Company ran a sidewheeler named Oneonta on the Columbia, above and below its cascades, in the 1860s and 187Os. Oneonta Creek and Gorge probably were named sometime after the boat's construction.
In 1914, the Multnomah County Road Department and Samuel Lancaster sought to align the route so that it brought travelers to the mouth of Oneonta Gorge, a canyon so narrow that its basalt walls almost touch as they rise two hundred feet above the creek. Subsequently, the county built Oneonta Gorge Creek Bridge. Carrying the alignment past a nearby 200' bluff, a continuation of the Oneonta Gorge, proved more difficult. In the 1880s the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company (OWRN) had laid out its route along the Columbia River's south shore. Much or it was along the old Troutdale to The Dalles road begun in the 1870s. The OWRN's right-of-way crossed Oneonta Gorge Creek then passed through a narrow opening between the river and the bluff before continuing east. With the close proximity of the river and the cliff, there was no additional space to permit carrying the HCRH around the outcropping.
Determined to include Oneonta Gorge and nearby Horsetail Falls as two of the natural beauty spots on the HCRH's route, Lancaster resolved this dilemma by having a tunnel bored through the outcropping.
Photo1 Oneonta Bluffs circa 1908
Photo 2 Oneonta Tunnel, 1920
Photo 3 March 21, 2009