Deadman Pass, a dangerous road in Oregon

Deadman Pass in Oregon
Deadman Pass

Deadman Pass in Oregon, also known as Emigrant Hill or Cabbage Hill, is a challenging mountain road that winds its way through Umatilla County.

Standing at an elevation of 3,622 feet (1,104 m) above sea level, this pass requires drivers to tackle an elevation change of more than 650 meters (2,000 feet) with a series of steep hairpin turns and slopes exceeding 6%.

Despite its difficulty, the road offers breathtaking views of the surrounding Blue Mountains and a unique driving experience.

Where is Deadman Pass located?

Deadman Pass is a US highway located in the state of Oregon. The official name is Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway. The Deadman Pass weather can also be quite difficult.

Deadman Pass is a 52-mile (84 km) road that spans from the city of Pendleton to La Grande, in the US state of Oregon.

Nearby you can drive the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway.

The Deadman Pass welcomes visitors with dense forests of pine and spruce trees, which soon give way to a breathtaking vista surrounded by towering foliage trees. The weather conditions on the Deadman Pass, on the other hand, can be quite unpredictable and challenging, with sudden temperature changes and frequent rainfall, making the journey along this road exciting and adventurous.

You can locate the road on the map below:

Enlarge the map

How did Deadman Pass get its name ?

Deadman’s Pass earned its name from a tragic event that occurred during the Bannock War. According to local history, a trucker driving a wagon through the pass was ambushed and killed by a Native American tribe. This unfortunate incident marked the beginning of a series of fatal encounters as several other travelers met their demise while trying to cross the pass. Over time, the pass became known by its ominous name: Deadman’s Pass.

The trail and the modern highway built today then went down the hill and into the valley. It was this descent that was difficult for travelers at the time and remained the most dangerous section of Oregon’s Interstate 84, not to mention the pass’s capricious weather, which made Deadman’s pass road conditions complicated.

History of the Deadman Pass:

At the time, in 1876, settlers were particularly concerned about the Bannock Indian uprising in the Grande Ronde Valley area. They were afraid that the Bannock tribe, who were fighting settlers and travelers in the Snake River area of southern Idaho, would move north to attack the settlers in the Grande Ronde Valley. Scouts were sent out but saw no sign of the Bannocks.

However, in July 1876, a freight carrier was attacked and killed on the road. This area, then called Crawford Hill, became known as “Dead Man’s Gulch” or “Dead Man’s Pass”.

Today, at the eastbound rest area on I-84 near this location, you can see a section of the Oregon Trail. Traces still remain of the emigrant wagons passing through. This was one of the most dangerous places on the Oregon Trail.

How to get to the Deadman Pass ?

If you are coming from the west, for example from Portland, you should take the Interstate number 80, until you arrive at Pendleton.

If you are coming from the southeast, for instance from Salt Lake City, take the Interstate 80 in the north direction until La Grande.

The Blue Mountains were the last mountain range that emigrants on their way west from Oregon had to cross before reaching the valleys east of the Cascades. It was also a very formidable and dangerous crossing.

On the itinerary, you can find interpretive signs about the history and environment. Also, note that many hikes are available in the Crawford Hill area.

You can visualize how to get there on this map of the drive:

Are chains required Deadman Pass Oregon?

It is advisable to check with local authorities regarding road conditions and chain requirements before driving on Deadman Pass, especially during winter months. Winter storms in the area can be severe and bring heavy snow, ice, and fog that make road conditions treacherous. Driving with caution is always necessary on Deadman Pass, especially during the period between October and April.

A preview of the road:

If you don’t have the possibility to travel to these US states, or you just want to watch a dope road drive video, just take a look at this YouTube video:

Is Deadman’s Pass Open?

The road is open year-round, but may be closed depending on weather conditions at Deadman Pass. In fact, crossing the pass is one of the most dangerous stretches of Interstate 84.

Check your brakes before the descent and use your engine brakes. Indeed, Deadman Pass is dangerous because of the steep descent.

Before your trip, you should always check the road condition.

If you’re planning a road trip from Portland to Salt Lake City or vice versa, Deadman Pass is a must-drive on your itinerary. This iconic road draws travelers from near and far to experience its scenic and historical beauty. So, what are you waiting for? Embark on your journey and make memories that will last a lifetime. And, after experiencing Deadman Pass, be sure to check out other road trip destinations on our website!

Pictures sources: Pinterest /

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