Some say it is one of the most beautiful Motocross parks in the world. Perhaps that explains why it's also one of the most photographed - quite often the locale for Motocross commercials and photo shoots.
Nestled in amongst a forest of fir trees, Washougal Motocross Park rests just south of a National Forest and north of the scenic Columbia River which acts as a boundary line for much of Washington and Oregon.
Glenn Gordon and Dave Dimeo opened Washougal MX Park, in Washougal, WA to racing in 1971 with a track laid out by Bob Leach, whose family today owns Albany Motocross Park in Albany, OR. In 1976, the park featured the Northwest Challenge which ultimately opened the door to its first National.
"There were a ton of people at the Northwest Challenge, it was a huge race," said Brian Barnes, the iconic voice behind the microphone fans hear at every race. "The word got out that it was a cool place."
Washougal Motocross Park - Photo: ProMotocross.com
In 1979, Ed Youngblood, the head of the AMA, visited the property and track promoters Bob Osborne and Wally Brosalme asked if Washougal could host a National. Their efforts succeeded when, on July 6, 1980, Washougal held its first Outdoor Motocross race. Local boy, Chuck Sun from Sherwood, OR, won the 500cc class on a Honda and Mark Barnett took the 125 class on a Suzuki.
Washougal MX Park sits on a clay base and up top it's loamy thanks to a mixture of home dirt from the property and sometimes trucked-in soil. There are lots of berms and natural elevation changes and the route takes riders in and out through the forest of trees.
"It's been transformed from a piece of property with small trees to what can be considered a national park of Motocross," said Barnes who has called every National held at Washougal. "It's a true natural terrain and elevation change, old school Motocross park the way it was back in the day. We've tried to continue that tradition and not make it Supercrossy."
Like every park on the Motocross circuit, Washougal is home to some memorable races and epic moments. In 1982, Bob Hannah won Moto 2 on a bike nobody thought he could win with - it also turned out to be his last ever ride for Yamaha. Great battles ensued between Jeremy McGrath and Jeff Emig, Doug Henry and Mike LaRocco; Ricky Carmichael also took on James Stewart and Kevin Windham.
"The biggest moment here ever was Jason McCormick in 1999," Barnes said. "He got a fifth in the first Moto and in Moto 2 amidst the frenzy of the crowd he won, beating Ricky Carmichael, and got third overall."
Barnes recalled once the race ended he went to interview Carmichael who did not know McCormick won the Moto.
"Jason was so far ahead, Ricky did not realize Jason beat him," Barnes said. "He was shocked."
Washougal represents one of the few Motocross parks left that allow fans to watch the race literally from the sidelines. Whereas other parks incorporate more of a baseball/football type atmosphere pushing onlookers back from the action, Washougal fans get right up to the fence line and if they're lucky, or maybe not so lucky, can get peppered with roost as a rider spits by.
Washougal is not a rider specific park either. Barnes said someone who can ride hard pack fares just as well as someone who prefers berms and ruts. Though after a day of riding leeches through to the hard pack, it can present a tricky surface to ride.
"A lot of people complain about going in and out of the trees and the shadows," Barnes said. "But everybody rides the same track and if you're a professional rider you have to adapt to any one of the 12 tracks of the Nationals."
Barnes said 150 workers and volunteers spent the last few weeks getting the park ready for Saturday when Washougal celebrates 34 years hosting Outdoors with Round 9 of the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series. On Thursday and Friday, Washougal also hosts the 2014 Amateur Days where officials expect the biggest turnout in seven years.
Washougal is not easy to get to. Nearly 20,000 fans crawl their way up a two-lane, backcountry road to the park, if they haven't already set up camp. Go early. Buy tickets online or onsite, 40205 NE Borin Road in Washougal, WA.