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. Whenever traveling in the area, it's a good idea to check the local Deadman Pass camera.

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An official map and warning detailing the Deadman's pass for truck drivers.
Oregon Department of Transportation / Canva-Getty

Deadman Pass might be the worst place to drive in the US

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's the deadliest accident recorded in the area, but it is not how the pass got the name ‘Deadman Pass’.

A Google map view of the general Deadman's pass area in Oregon, along with two photos along the trail - one looking down on Pendleton and one showcasing a covered wagon.
Google / Canva-Getty

How did it become known as Deadman Pass?

In 1876, the Bannock Indian Tribe roamed the area. Some renegades within the tribe were angry and protective of the stretch of the trail, ambushing and killing 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’. You can see wagon ruts from the original Oregon trail near the Emigrant Springs State Heritage Area, seven miles northwest of Emigrant Springs.

Gerald Tolley-Rest Area at Deadman Pass-Facebook
Gerald Tolley-Rest Area at Deadman Pass-Facebook

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