Why is This Stretch of I-84 in Oregon Named ‘Deadman Pass’?
During the winter months, it’s not uncommon for Interstate 84 on ‘Deadman Pass’ to close – typically it’s from a combination of bad weather (snow, ice, fog) and blocking jack-knifed semi-trucks or worse, a fatal accident.
The stretch of highway also known as Cabbage Hill was once called “one of the worst places in America for driving”. The steep, winding road descends quickly off the pass and the sheer beauty of the view catches drivers off-guard - causing them to gain speed quickly and oftentimes, lose control. This was the cause of an extremely deadly accident in late December of 2012 when a tour bus crashed killing nine of its occupants. To date, it is the deadliest accident recorded in the area, but it is not how the pass got its name ‘Deadman Pass’.
How did it become known as Deadman Pass?
In 1876, the Bannock Indian Tribe roamed the area and some within the tribe (renegades) were angry and protective of the stretch of the trail and ambushed and killed a number of travelers making their way west into the Umatilla area. This was one of the most dangerous areas on the Oregon Trail. Warnings were sent to travelers calling the area ‘Deadman Pass’. According to the Trail Tenders website, you can see parts of the old Oregon Trail from the eastbound rest area of I-84 – look for wagon ruts and other markings on the land.