Deadman Pass

Deadman Pass in Oregon: The Treacherous Ascent and Descent of Interstate 84

Deadman Pass is a mountain pass at an elevation of 1.104m (3,622ft) above the sea level, located in Umatilla County, in the U.S. state of Oregon. Drivers attempting to negotiate the pass are in for a challenge: heading northwest, you're forced to climb more than 2,000 feet in elevation that's chock-full of double-hairpin turns, as well as 6 percent grades. Heading southeast, the scenario flip-flops, and your brakes need to be operating at their full potential.

How long is the road to Deadman Pass in Oregon?

The road to the summit, also known as Cabbage Hill or Emigrant Hill, is totally paved. It’s called Interstate 84, known as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Highway. The pass road is 84km (52.2 miles) long, running northwest-southwest from Pendleton (the county seat of Umatilla County) to La Grande (in Union County).

What's the weather like in Deadman Pass in Oregon?

The area has some of the most changeable and severe weather conditions in the Northwest. Always check the weather forecast before you start your journey: adverse conditions are common. These conditions may impair visibility and cause icy road surfaces. The area’s steep incline, its snow and fog, and slippery road conditions make this area a place where caution must be exercised by drivers. On top of that, you get high winds, snow, packed ice and freezing fog. It’s frequently very stormy up there in the wintertime, and the road is very treacherous. Fog, snow, and black ice are common between October and April. Be prepared.

Why is it called Deadman Pass?

Tucked away in the Blue Mountains, Interstate 84 is also notorious for treacherous conditions, especially in winter, because of the steep double hair-pin downgrades. The name, "Deadman's Pass", was the result of an accident during the Bannock War when a teamster driving a wagon through the pass was killed by renegade Indians from the nearby Indian agency. The Interstate runs along the same area as the original Oregon Trail.

Is the road to Deadman Pass in Oregon dangerous?

The road features many hairpin turns with pretty steep sections. The pass is one of the most hazardous stretches of road along westbound Interstate 84. Remember to descend the hill in proper gear. You’ll lose about 2,000 feet of elevation in six miles and twist through a double hair pin turn at a 6-percent downgrade. On an average 78 percent of the Cabbage Hill crashes involve out-of-state motor carriers. Warning signs provide recommended speeds for trucks descending the Hill. Most of the accidents involve out-of-state freight trucks, 59% attributable to brake failures. Drivers in trucks with Green Light transponders will receive a personalized message from a “variable message sign” with the recommended speed. Escape ramps are located at Milepost 221 and Milepost 220. Road signs along this route caution tractor-trailer operators to go as slow as 18 mph and chain up during the winter to ensure a safe trip to the top. Drivers traveling west on I-84 are urged to be prepared before descending the hill, and to use extreme caution and defensive driving techniques as you maneuver through the downgrade, which begins at Milepost 227 and continues through Milepost 217. On average 59 percent of brake problems contribute to accidents on the Hill, drivers should check their brakes before the downgrade. A brake check area is located at the weigh station at Milepost 227.