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Looking Back on October 7, 2018

History Mystery

Terray Harmon, Arlene Neumayer, Jim Johnston, Gary Conley, Michael Houser, Mary Batty, Chuck Rinck, Ted Weller and Gary Elkinton contributed to this report.

Last week’s History Mystery, above, was scanned from a print found in the archives of The Dalles Reminder. It was published Aug. 5, 1982. The caption reads, “Sand battle continues. Oregon State Highway Department is building a road on sand dunes east of The Dalles. The road will provide construction equipment access to the area, as the contract for a dune-stabilization project is expected to finalize by the end of this month. Work on the dunes started about a week ago. The stabilization project is an effort to stop the shifting sands from spreading across the eastbound lane of Interstate 84, which is a constant problem for the highway department. The job could take about 5 weeks to complete.” The photograph was taken by Greg Paul.

Although a “constant problem” for the highway department, many area residents remember the huge sand dune fondly.

Terray Harmon said when he was in junior high, many of the boys made “surf boards” in wood shop for sliding down the dunes.

Jim Johnston wrote that “before the sand dunes were covered by all the rocks that area was a fun place to go and play and explore the shifting sands.” But the drifting sand was a constant problem for the drivers of the Columbia River highway below, he said.

The project described above successfully stopped the sand from drifting, with both rock work and the planting of Euoropean beach grass.

“Ahhh! That looks like the wonderful sand dunes that once were just east of here on I 84,” wrote Arlene Neumayer. “The wind frequently blew it onto the highway requiring the highway department to remove it and eventually plant over it to stabilize the shifting sands. Ben and I and our two kids had so much fun playing on those dunes, frequently inviting friends and relatives to enjoy it with us! I still look longingly at the now covered-over hillside as we drive east on I 84, remembering the fun times our family enjoyed playing there.”

“They fought it for years, blowing on the highway and railroad track,” Gary Conley said of the dune. “They dumped that shale rock on there and worked it in with a sheep-foot roller and boy, it really made a difference. Nobody thought it would work, but they put the grass seed in it and it’s been good ever since.”

A “Sheep’s foot roller” is a large, heavy roller consisting of steel drums on which projecting lugs (that resemble sheep feet) are fixed. They are used for compacting fine grained soils.

“I remember playing on the sand dunes when I was younger,” wrote Gary Elkinton. “Now there is a pull over area for vehicles where the sand dunes came to a point.” Chuck Rinck, who commutes between The Dalles and the John Day Dam where he works as an electrical engineer, said the dunes were around milepost 92 and 93.

It wasn’t just families that came to the dunes. Mary Batty remembers that at one time, a company brought a whole bunch of models to the dune. “They took pictures of them in the sand in their swimsuits,” she remembered. “It really wasn’t summertime. My mom took me out there, and I saw that.”

Todd Weller remembers that the dune could generate some pretty big sand storms, back in the day.

20 years ago – 1998

The Dalles School Board will appoint members to its Long-Range Planning Task Force during its meeting Thursday, Oct...

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