On Thursday, October 6, 2016, we drove the length of Washington State Route 501 -- except the part in the middle that hasn't been built yet.
A state highway to be known as state route number 501 is established as follows:
Beginning at a junction with state route number 5 at Vancouver, thence northerly by way of Lower River Road and an extension thereof to Ridgefield, thence easterly to a junction with state route number 5 in the vicinity south of La Center. That portion of state route number 501 from the northerly junction of N.W. Lower River Road to the Ridgefield city limits is designated "the Erwin O. Rieger Memorial Highway." The department may enter into an agreement with the Port of Vancouver, Clark county, or the United States Army Engineers, or any combination thereof, to obtain material dredged from the Columbia river and have it stockpiled at no expense to the state.
For many decades, SR 501 began at the interchange of Fourth Plain Boulevard and I-5. In 2000, Vancouver built a lovely bridge for Mill Plain Boulevard over the railroad tracks, so SR 500 was relocated south by a plain, to this interchange pictured above.
We drive through Vancouver's clean and glistening small downtown before heading over the railroad tracks to the Port of Vancouver USA industrial area. Then it's an abrupt transition to deciduous forest, followed by farmland. SR 501 takes a left turn beside Vancouver Lake, not continuing straight on the three-mile dead-end of the Erwin O. Rieger Memorial Highway. We have a longer dead-end to drive. We curve northward along the Columbia River, a huge flock of migrating birds squawking overhead. Ocean liners across the cornfields. Houseboats on the slough. Cranes trilling over the water. A well-used boat launch; a man carrying two large salmon across the road. A gate, open. A mile later, concrete barriers, the road very closed, even though the pavement continues into the distance.
In Ridgefield, our backs to Lake River (which flows from Vancouver Lake to the Columbia River), SR 501 resumes at this intersection with Main Avenue.
We leave quiet old Ridgefield, cross Gee Creek, and head up the hill to the new suburbia and roundabouts on our way to this junction with I-5, the northern end of SR 501.
The majority of Highway 501 was surprisingly rural, for how close to Portland it is. Blurock Landing was a nice place for a quiet walk on a sandy beach, believe it or not. Given the current state of wildlife protection, I doubt this highway will ever be completed, but I guess I'm okay with that.