First Advisor

Catherine McNeur

Date of Publication

Fall 11-28-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in History






Roads -- Oregon -- Mount Hood National Forest -- 20th century, Automobile travel -- Oregon -- Mount Hood National Forest, Highway engineering -- Oregon -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (xi, 222 pages)


Between 1913 and 1964, automobile roads appeared throughout the Cascade Mountains around Mount Hood, just east of Portland, Oregon. From elaborate scenic highways to primitive dirt trails, each had its own story. Many of them are gone today, decommissioned and decomposing with the rotting understory soil of the forest. However, some remain as the most utilized spaces in Mount Hood National Forest, one of the most popular public land units for recreation in the country, owned and managed by the United States Forest Service. "Seeing the Forest for the Roads" uncovers the history of why roads were built, who planned them, and how they were used. At the same time, it seeks to answer the question, how do roads shape the way that people view wild nature? As places that are simultaneously easily accessible and "untrammeled," wilderness has much to do with roads. But it has even more to do with the people that envisioned, constructed, and used the roads. The story that follows is divided into four sections, from the Progressive Era, through the Roaring Twenties, New Deal years, and into the mid-twentieth century. It concludes with the Wilderness Act of 1964, a profound, important statement about the relationship between technology, nature, and human beings, which singled out roads as the most visible, damaging threat to the existence of wilderness as modern Americans know it. I argue that in order to understand wilderness as both a legal term and a social construct, scholars must look at the roads themselves, particularly from a local, on-the-ground perspective. In the end, what results is a more nuanced understanding of the twentieth-century history of technology and nature, as well as the social, cultural, and intellectual context that produced both sides of the same coin in wilderness.


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