Chenoweth Tableland access

Use this forum to report and discuss trails in need of maintenance. This will help organizations like TKO and agencies like the Forest Service get the most recent on-the-ground trail conditions.
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Chenoweth Tableland access

Post by adamschneider » April 27th, 2019, 8:32 pm

This is not about a trail that needs repair, it's about a trail that needs to be created. Chenoweth Tableland is a fantastic slice of public land (owned by the USFS) that currently has NO feasible public access.

While it is legally possible to access the plateau from Sandlin Road on the west side, the locals have posted a sign nearby that reads, "THIS ROAD IS MAINTAINED BY LOCAL RESIDENTS WHO ARE ANGRY YOU HAVE PARKED HERE. CONSIDER PARKING ELSEWHERE." The Oregon Hikers Field Guide suggests parking back at the end of the pavement on Sandlin Road, but I wouldn't feel comfortable walking along a road in front of the homes of people who hate me on principle.
angry sign.jpg

In the past, there was access from the shuttered Chenowith Middle School, or from the water tanks at the end of Chinook Street. But, as the Field Guide notes, the school is now surrounded by "NO TRESPASSING" signs, and barbed-wire fences have gone up around all of the privately-owned property on the east side of the plateau, blocking the water tank access.

Here's a map of the current situation (green is the USFS land):
Chenoweth map.jpg

But, with a little exploration, I did find one possible way to access the property legally and without angering any locals: park on Chenowith Creek Road on the far northeast corner of the public land. There's a nice wide cinder shoulder outside the bike lane.
Chenoweth Road shoulder.jpg

From there, it's a short walk through an opening in an old fence across a field to Chenoweth Creek.
Chenoweth Road fence.jpg
Chenoweth Creek.jpg

After you rock-hop or ford the creek, it's only about 550 feet horizontally (and 160 feet vertically) to the existing trail system. The only hitch is that the first half of that climb is in dense woods/brush that's heavily infested with poison-oak. (I didn't try it because it was too dark by the time I got there.)

So, here's what I think should happen:
Chenoweth map detail.jpg
Google Earth view.jpg
It seems to me this would be an very easy trail for TKO or the Forest Service to put in. A couple of people with machetes could probably do it in a day! Of course, a proper trail would probably need a switchback or two (or some steps), since the slope above the creek might be as high as 50%. (And I realize there's going to be bureaucracy involved that I know nothing about.)

So, TKO folks, what do you think? Is this a feasible idea? Whom do we contact?

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Re: Chenoweth Tableland access

Post by bobcat » April 30th, 2019, 3:28 pm

I'm guessing walking in from Chenowith Creek Road would not engender enthusiasm from the powers that be. If the USFS (CRGNSA) constructed a new trail, they'd want a separated trailhead parking area not a line of cars strung along the cinder verge. Also, that would be connecting an official trail with a bunch of unofficial trails, also something they're likely to shy away from.

Obviously, many of the residents dislike having public lands backed up against their property and accessible to random visitors from out of town (especially since the USFS property is a fairly recent acquisition). So there's a whole political aspect to this that the CRGNSA may be avoiding at this point.

I have no idea what the plans are for the middle school property. It seems a parking area there, separated from whatever else they do with the buildings, would be the most feasible solution.

You're right. The bureaucracy/planning for making this an official destination with trailheads and official trails (à la Coyote Wall) would take years. The local tourist literature advertises it, though, so all is not lost. Right now, it might be best to write to the CRGNSA and see if they have anything in the works. Friends of the Gorge might also have some insight although they stopped leading walks there years ago.

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