Barlow Trail begins at the edge of the prairies and oak scrublands of Central Oregon before heading into a dense forest of Ponderosa Pines. The pine trees give way to Douglas Firs, Western Larch, and other alpine species of fir, alders, and even a few aspen trees before reaching Barlow Pass on the crest of the Cascades. Anyone who played Oregon Trail or Oregon Trail 2 (popular educational video games in the late 80s and 90s) in grade school remembers the Barlow Road route to Oregon City and the promised land of the Willamette Valley. When the pioneers came to The Dalles, they either chose the water route down the rapids of the Columbia River long before the dams were built, or they turned south along the eastern flank of the Cascades to head over the mountains on the Barlow Road. Avid players of the Oregon Trail games most certainly remember the perils of going down the rapids where many lives were lost over the period of mass migration along the Oregon Trail. The Barlow Road route was not without its perils, especially early in the fall when snow storms could move in with little warning, covering the pass in a thick blanket of cold, wet snow. Many pioneers found it to be the most difficult 100-mile stretch of trail from Nebraska to Oregon. Construction of the Barlow Road was authorized in December 1845 by the Provisional Legislature of Oregon. Sam Barlow, who had scouted the route with a party of several wagons earlier in 1845, got to work in the spring of 1846 clearing timber and building the first crude track through the dense old-growth forests on the southern flanks of Mount Hood. Sam Barlow and his business partners only operated the toll road for two years before the toll concession passed into a succession of other hands. Today the segment of the Barlow Road between the eastern edge of the forests and Barlow Pass is now known as Barlow Trail (NF-3530) and is open to 4x4ers, overlanders, and those with an adventurous spirit.
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