Idaho January 31, 2019
The Longest Tunnel In Idaho Has A Truly Fascinating Backstory
Located along Idaho’s world-famous rail-trail known as the Route of the Hiawatha, the St. Paul Pass Tunnel is the longest tunnel in the state. Also known as Taft Tunnel, this is a treasured landmark along the trail and it’s easy to see why. The scale of this tunnel is breathtaking. Riding through it on a bicycle is a real treat that’s bound to leave you in amazement. However, few people realize that this tunnel has a rich backstory that goes along with it. Keep reading to learn all about it!
The Route of the Hiawatha is a famous 15-mile trail that leads you across seven sky-high trestles and ten train tunnels. One of these tunnels is especially notable—St. Paul Pass.
This particular rail tunnel, also known as Taft Tunnel, was completed in 1908. It boasts an impressive length of 8,771 feet (1.66 miles). Although financial problems caused the rail line to abandon the tunnel in 1980, it was revived as a rail-trail in recent years.
The tunnel was constructed as part of a large project that took place in the early 1900s. The project was known as "The Pacific Coast Extension" and it was specific to the Milwaukee Railroad. It turns out that this would be the last transcontinental line built in America.
During construction, a small boom town named Taft cropped up on the east portal of the tunnel. It's said that the mining town was visited by President William Howard Taft who described the town as "a sewer of sin" and "a sore on an otherwise beautiful national forest". Out of jest, both the town and tunnel took his name.
The tunnel was completed in 1908 but its life would be short lived. The cost for constructing the Pacific Extension went way over budget. Additionally, traffic revenue proved to be dismal since the route bypassed major population centers. The overall decline of the railroad industry in the 1950s didn't help, and the entire line was abandoned in 1980.
The tunnel sat dormant for more than 20 years until it was officially rededicated as part of the Route of the Hiawatha rail-trail. Today, the tunnel sees hundreds of visitors and it's widely acknowledged as one of the trail's most notable features.
Did you know the story behind Idaho’s longest tunnel? Riding through this thing should be a bucket list item for everyone! If you thought this story was fascinating, just wait until you read about
The Unexpected City Of Tunnels That’s Hiding Underneath A Rural Town In Idaho.