WARRENTON — Previously forested land at Lewis and Clark National Historical Park is now a 2-mile path, extending the Kwis Kwis Trail to the park’s famed Fort to Sea Trail.
This is the first of two major new trail in the bi-state park. In Washington, a new trail is nearing completion that will provide pedestrian access between State Route 100 and North Head Lighthouse.
The new extension on the Oregon side means hikers can walk about a dozen miles in a loop around the Fort Clatsop Unit of the park without backtracking along the same routes.
The new route features a hike along historic old-growth trees and a walk on bridges over a large pond. Park visitors can now experience an entirely unique part of the National Park, Superintendent Scott Tucker said.
The 2-mile Kwis Kwis trail extension cost $96,000, collected from entrance fees, and took the past two summers to construct. Park staff and its youth program worked over the summers to complete the extension.
“Some of it is on old logging roads and actually a portion of this trail was originally flagged as the Fort to Sea and was changed at the last second,” Tucker said.
Tucker is in the process of creating wayfinding maps along the new portion of the trail. Once maps are in place, Tucker said, he hopes to have a grand opening event in January.
The extend trail is open now for hikers, but without the updated signage.
It took multiple steps to properly build the Kwis Kwis extension. The steps include:
• Flagging and finding the best grade;
• Conducting any required compliance work necessary;
• Fall trees that are in the planned route;
• Excavator work to clear stumps and brush;
• Dig out root systems and any organics that will grow in the intended trail bed.
Doug Graham, the trail building lead for the park, said the first thing he does is look at who the end user will be: walkers, trail runners. From there, he builds a trail that will meet in the middle of the average user.
The National Park’s trails are geared at the average hiker at a 12 percent grade at the most, Graham said.
Tucker said the trail is made 8 feet wide with the understanding that it will narrow over the years as vegetation grows. Gravel is also used to strengthen the path.
“We come through with staff and resource specialists to find the least number of trees that have to come down and where we will have the least amount of erosion,” Tucker said.
While surveying the path, staff found an abandoned 1955 Ford in the brush. Other junk and garbage was found, but no historical artifacts, which sometimes are discovered.
The original Kwis Kwis trail, named after the sound a chipmunk makes, is about 2.5 miles long. The 2-mile extension nearly doubles the Kwis Kwis and connects to the Fort to Sea.
With the new trail recently opened to hikers, Tucker said, the park is busy monitoring trip hazards and general upkeep.
The National Park trails are for hiking use only.
In October, the park set up trail counters designed by the U.S. Forest Service that use a sensor to count hikers on each trial. In the month of October, the park had 5,000 trail users.
The technology is brand new at the park, Tucker said, and will help gather more accurate figures.
Enhancing the visitor’s experience by extending the Kwis Kwis Trail is an example of how the park relies on entrance fees, Tucker said.
The use of entrance fees is especially important since the park is proposing an entrance fee increase as soon as next year, following a directive from the National Parks Service.
The local park recently received 80 comments regarding the increase during a 30-day public comment period that ended December 7. The comments, which came from Astoria, Warrenton, Seaside, Gearhart, Long Beach and Ilwaco were all passionate on both sides of the issue, Tucker said.
Entrance fees at the local park would increase from $3 to $10 for adults. The annual park passes would increase from $10 to $40.
The additional funds would go toward the new trail maps along the Kwis Kwis extension, rerouting a portion of the Fort to Sea Trail, help replace the park’s aging septic system and increase the handicap accessibility.