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The Bounty of Clark County

North Clark County Scenic Drive dishes up a grand ride

Scenic Loops and Scenic Highways are a great way to enjoy a day of riding. But try Googling "King County Scenic Drive," "Pierce County Scenic Loop," "Multnomah County Scenic Drive" or "Ada County Scenic Loop." You won't find much. They don't exist.

Now think about driving on Interstate 5 between Portland and the Puget Sound. As you near the Vancouver area, your mind ponders what might lie beyond the slab. A few farm houses? A river? You'll never know until you make the effort to find out. We did and were pleasantly surprised.

Established in 2007, The North Clark County Scenic Drive is a 70 mile loop through the northern, less populated areas of Clark County. The area is rich in large homesteads, history and intriguing geography. The loop provides good lessons in all these aspects, plus some outstanding riding as you wind your way over the rivers and through the woods.

The county describes the trip like this � "The tour loops through Battle Ground, Yacolt, La Center and Ridgefield. Several parks are located along the route including Lucia Falls, Moulton Falls, Whipple Creek and Daybreak parks. Historic sites include the Henry Heisson House, the Cedar Creek Grist Mill (shown at left), Allen House and the Cathlapotle Plankhouse(shown below)."

All worthy of the trip alone.

But beyond that, it's interesting to note that Clark County was built on a major wetland. Surrounded by the Columbia River on the south and west, building roads in this marshy region presented many challenges over the years. As a result, it's hard to find a straight line that lasts very long here. Tight corners? You'll love the west section. Endless lateral whoops? There's plenty to be found along the southern portion. Wide sweepers? Welcome to the northeast corner of the ride. Tough planning for road builders, good riding for motorcyclists!

Along the west side of the route lies the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. The area hosts hundreds of species of migratory waterfowl and it's not uncommon to see a blue heron, mallard duck or bald eagle during a ride.

While the loop is only 70 miles long, it's best to plan an entire morning or afternoon around taking a ride here so you have time to stop and visit the historical sights, explore side roads and take in a meal or two along the way.

The way the county designed it, you're supposed to run the route counter-clockwise. There are no route signs in the clockwise direction. For your navigational pleasure, we have created a GPS file that includes the route and several side roads worthy of a cruise.

A favorite way to run the route when coming at it from the north is to exit I-5 at Woodland and ride the remnants of old Highway 99 into La Center. There is a casino nearby with food options.

If you're coming at the route from the south, start in Battle Ground on Main Street. There are lots of fast food and a few greasy spoon places here. Our favorite however is going to the local Burgerville right on Main Street. What?! You have not been to a Burgerville? It's fast food that's SLO (Sustainable, Local, and sometimes Organic) and it puts other fast food chains to shame. Chow down a locally grown burger, chomp on a few Walla Walla onion rings, slurp down your huckleberry shake (menu changes seasonally) and hit the road.

Other places to eat along the way can be found in Amboy and Ridgefield.

The ride can be enjoyed anytime, but it makes a great first spring ride or late fall ride when the colors are out. Because it's almost at sea level, the area's milder temps make it an available ride when higher elevations may be experiencing snow.

The route also lends itself well to a fun run or poker run route. With ample fuel and food places along the way, anyone can lay out a unique run whose checkpoints can change each year, despite utilizing the same loop.

Quit wondering what's on either side of I-5 near Vancouver. The Northern Clark County Scenic Drive has plenty to reveal. And with any luck, other Northwest counties might latch on and create a few of their own.

A few links

PT/Summer 2009, updated 2015


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