US Route 20: From Valley to Sea

Category: General Article

Back to Coast Range Mountains

GPS Coordinates: 44.636300, -124.051509

There are only a few major highways which connect the Oregon coast to the interior of the state, with U.S. Route 20 being one of the best known on the central coast. The route begins at its intersection with US Highway 101 (also known as the Pacific Coast Highway) in Newport and heads east through the Coast Range Mountains toward Corvallis. This 50 mile (80.4 km) length of the road was laid down in 1945 and meanders over mountain passes and through narrow river valleys, providing some of the best views of the coast mountains you can have without getting out of a car.

Earlier portions of the road, some dating back to the early part of the twentieth century, are still used by locals but were replaced with straighter (and safer) highway during the intervening years. The route becomes more twisty (and more photogenic) near Eddyville, a small unincorporated community tucked into an elbow of the Yaquina River.

The modern path of US Route 20 is similar to historical routes used by both Native Americans and early pioneers to move between the coast and the Willamette Valley. A railroad still runs parallel to part of the highway and is used primarily to move lumber and paper goods from Toledo to the interior. Long stretches of the highway are currently being replaced with a modern highway system intended to reduce travel time and provide greater safety.

Related Information: Problems with Geology: Colonel Hogg’s Great Railroad to the Pacific and Other Engineering Disasters