HISTORY OF GRAND LOOP ROAD
NORRIS JUNCTION TO CANYON JUNCTION
During 1885 and 1886, James Blanding, Oscar Swanson and the road overseer, Ed Lamartine began construction of the first road from Norris Geyser Basin to Canyon.  In 1887, $12,000 was spent on finishing the 12 mile road, which had only been graded for the first 8 miles east of Norris. 
By the end of the century, Army Corps officer Hiram Chittenden considered the reconstruction of this section of road "of pressing importance." He described the road as having:
In 1903, Chittenden relocated the most dangerous section, eliminating the bad hills and the dangerous curve, the Devil's Elbow by carving a road into the face of the cliff. In addition to achieving a safer route, "this road had materially added to the scenic effect of this canyon." 
In Hiram Chittenden's assessment of the roads in the Park just prior to his transfer to Mount Rainier National Park, in 1905, he called the Norris Junction to Canyon "the least satisfactory road in the park." Despite correcting the most dangerous curves, eliminating the bad hills, clearing timber for 30 feet on the south side of the road, he recommended:
The 1909 spring snow, which laid very deep on the road, caused significant damage to the road despite the struggle by the road crews to drain it. Two crews ditched and graded the hills and made necessary gravel fills so that at the end of the 1909 fiscal year, the Army engineering officer considered the road to be in "very good condition." 
The entire road was graded in 1911 and numerous culverts and one bridge were repaired. Two years later, the retaining wall at Virginia Cascades had been destroyed as a result of severe weather conditions. The crews repaired two bad washout sections and they constructed a dry rubble guard wall. Part of the road section was resurfaced with local materials. 
In 1914, a new route was suggested for the stretch of road from Canyon west to the Virginia Cascades. The road would leave the Canyon area, proceed to Cascade Creek to Grebe Lake, following the Gibbon River into Virginia Canyon. All of the transportation companies operating in the Park endorsed the new route, despite the fact that it would be 6-1/2 miles longer than the old route. Other factors favored the routenearness to water for sprinkling and traveling along a river is generally more scenic.  However, permitting automobiles to enter the Park the following summer prompted the Park to reverse their plans for the new route.
In 1926, another survey of the road conditions stated that extensive reconstruction was needed on this section. Many places needed widening, many grades needed improvements, and "numerous sags and humps" needed elimination. The report called for the installation of metal culverts, construction of "substantial retaining wall and parapet at Virginia Cascade" and surfacing the road with crushed rock and oil treatment. 
This section received more attention in 1934, in the planning of a new junction at Norris. The Park and Bureau officials felt that the road should be moved approximately 15 feet to take "develop the views of the Cascades and the Canyon to the best possible advantage." No precise location was decided and no substantial work was initiated. 
Five years later, no major work had been done and the condition of the road became a discussion point at the congressional appropriation hearings. Arthur Demary, associate director of the National Park Service, stated:
Demaray explained to the congressional committee that it would be a number of years before any major reconstruction or rerouting would be done, but with some additional funding he proposed a betterment program for an interim solution. The temporary measure would include:
America's entry into World War II prevented only the most minimal road construction or maintenance in the Park, thus the reconstruction of this section was delayed again. Only a hot spot was repaired by covering it with a concrete slab during the 1940s.
At the end of the decade, the South Entrance Road and this section were deemed to be in the worst condition of the whole system. 
In 1952, a Location Survey Report was completed by the Bureau of Public Roads, but it would be September, 1966, before this road section was completed. The 38-feet wide road had a 1-1/2 inches thick bituminous base covering 30 feet. This project also included the Norris by-pass and road obliteration.  The road has been resurfaced in recent years.
Last Updated: 01-Dec-2005