Searching for the long lost Kerry Tunnel

Kerry tunnel north entrance railway railroad train bed logging

Nehalem Divide is the most famous logging railroad tunnel in Columbia County, but it wasn’t the largest. That honor belongs to Kerry Tunnel, a landmark so grown over and remote that few residents even know it exists. Both entrances to the tunnel were blown over 80 years ago to keep people from going inside, and since then the forest has reclaimed them. But with the help of Brian McCamish’s Abandoned Railroad website, we went in search of this forgotten piece of history.

kerry tunnel columbia county oregon water tower
Kerry Tunnel and its water tower in operation (photo from Kent Quantenbush via Brian McCamish)

Our first trip was done on a beautiful January day, on logging company land in the hills a few miles south of Kerry and Westport, quite close to the Clatsop County border.

Mr. Rainier from westport kerry area clatskanie oregon columbia county
The rare Oregon view of Mt. Rainier

Matt and I had a vague idea of where the tunnel entrances were and spent most of the day tramping across densely forested hillsides. We found the railway bed leading into the northern entrance, but didn’t locate the actual place where the railroad entered the mountain. Our highlight was Matt finding a shed elk antler.

Kerry Tunnel Matt roosevelt elk shed
One of several shed elk antlers we’ve found on our hikes this year

On the way out we stopped by the smaller and easier to reach Westport Tunnel. This ancient tunnel dates to the 1880s, and was originally built for ox teams dragging logs and only later widened for a railway line. It was abandoned around 1915 and is now mostly backfilled.

north entrance to Westport Tunnel columbia county oregon logging railway railroad train
north entrance to the Westport Tunnel
westport tunnel railway railroad train north entrance inside columbia county oregon logging
View from inside showing backfilled entrance

Once we got home we poured carefully over Brian McCamish’s Kerry site, specifically the maps of the railway line with tunnel entrances and his pictures of the Kerry Tunnel, both from around 1916 (when it was in operation) and 2002 (when Brian made the his visit to the south end of the tunnel). Feeling better prepared, we returned in March and found both entrances this time…..or what was left of them.

Kerry tunnel north entrance railway railroad train bed logging
Flattened railway bed just north of the tunnel entrance

kerry tunnel trestling up from railroad bed logging
Point where the landslide from the entrance starts filling in the line
Kerry Tunnel trail railway railroad trestles
Decrepit trestles (or are they retaining supports?) as we ramp up to the north tunnel entrance
blown over entrance to Kerry Tunnel north side
Matt on hillside where landslide now covers the north entrance to the Kerry Tunnel
Remains of that water tower at south entrance (see photo at beginning of post)

How we got to the tunnel and what we found there is a tale better told via video. It shows our journey along with better views of the flattened bed, the landslides covering both entrances, and sinkholes where the tunnel has collapsed above them. We also share an extended story of the history of the tunnel, using information and pictures graciously granted with permission from Brian McCamish, whose research into the tunnel has been amazing. So far as we know we were the first people in 20 years to visit the south end of the tunnel remnants.

We hope you like the video. Thanks for taking a look!

Published by Jonathan

Educator, Herpetologist, Hiker.

7 thoughts on “Searching for the long lost Kerry Tunnel

  1. Just wondering, do you guys ever take anyone else on your hikes? I would love to tag along and learn some area history as my great grandparents were involved in some logging I believe. Thx for your time.

                                 Matt Tracy  
    

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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    1. Unfortunately we can’t for right now. We did a few times earlier this spring but our schedules won’t allow it again in the foreseeable future. Thank you for your interest!

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  2. Cool video, I was at the south end (probably 30 years ago) when there was big timber. My dad told me that his dad worked in the Kerry tunnel putting up wood supports because even while in use the tunnel continuously had cave-ins. When it was logged last you could see the ground above the tunnel sunken in areas from google earth

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    1. Yeah, there were some huge stumps at the north end too and we were sad we didn’t get to see it when they were live. Those big trees are the main habitat for clouded salamanders but we couldn’t find any in what was left.

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