History

About eighty years ago, Rocky Butte’s fortress viewpoint, scenic drive, and tunnel were constructed by hundreds of local masons and craftsmen. The workers were employed by the Works Progress Administration between 1934 and 1939.

Rocky Butte Viewpoint 1948

The magnificent stonework of the Rocky Butte area, similar to that of the Columbia River Highway, is fashioned from basalt quarried from the butte itself. The innovative tunnel, a 375 foot long switchback within the butte, was hand dug through solid lava.

Photo by Ray Walton

Photo by Ray Walton

Rising to a total elevation of over 600 feet, Rocky Butte also provided a perfect platform for an aircraft beacon in the early days of air transportation. Built on the summit in 1929, the beacon is one of the nation’s last remaining traces of the visual navigation system.

Rocky Butte Scenic Drive Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.