Ten Covered Bridges! Cottage Grove Area and East of Eugene

Clicking on the linked bridge names will take you to Bridgehunter.com with historical information about each bridge, location maps and photos. Hovering with your mouse over the photos will give you the name of the bridge as well. Again, the google map and link to our tour is here. My picasaweb/google photo albums have many additional photos of the bridges and our trip.

our route this morning, 2 miles on the West Bank Path and then two miles back on the East Bank PathOne of the finest parts of camping for free at the Eugene mall is access to the beautiful Ruth Bascom Riverbank Path System along the Willamette River.  We woke in the morning before daylight to the sound of footfalls beside us along the pathway.  Eugene folks are by and large a fit, healthy bunch, with running, exercise, and healthy food a big part of the culture. Maybe it was just that we were on the running route, but I haven’t seen so many svelte people in a long time.

biking on a saturday morningWe decided to cross the bridge near the MoHo to the West Bank Path for the two mile walk to the next bridge across the river and returned two miles on the East Bank Path.  Eugene was cool and misty that morning, but the leaves on the huge cottonwoods had popped and everything was that bright neon backlit green even with gloomy skies.

By the time we got on the road for our day of explorations, the sun was out most of the time with beautiful blue skies to enhance the scenery. Our first planned bridge was in the tiny town of Drain, at the furthest southern extent of what we wanted to see.  There are many bridges near Myrtle Creek and farther south, but we decided that we could visit those another time from home.  The easy route would have been the interstate, but who wants that?!  We chose instead to return to Territorial Highway and follow the back roads all the way to Drain. 

Kings Estate Winery south of EugeneThe most beautiful valley opened up in front of us, filled with farms and orchards and beautiful vineyards. On the western skyline we saw what looked like some sort of castle, and turned out to be the Kings Estate Vineyards, rivaling anything we have seen in the wine country of California.  I wished that I had put on something other than comfy sweats since the place was a bit intimidating.  We drove around but declined to treat the proprietors to our sweatshirty presence.

Entering the little town of Drain was a treat.  So many times I have passed the “Drain” exit on the freeway and wondered why a town would be named Drain.  I still have no idea why, but do know a bit more of the history and that it is a delightful little place, with everything you could need; post office, grocery store, fabric store, hardware store, gas station, and a beautiful community center, library and city park.  Housing around 1,000 folks for the past  50 years or so and 500 for the previous 50 years, the town is small but surprisingly stable.Pass Creek covered bridge in the park at Drain

The park was beautiful, with the Pass Creek bridge dismantled from its original location and restored and relocated in the idyllic park.  The setting was lovely, and quite different from what we had seen previously.

Continuing back north along Highway 99 toward Cottage Grove, we found the

 Chambers Railroad Covered Bridge 6 Chambers Railroad Covered Bridge

the only remaining covered railroad bridge in the state of Oregon.  It has been beautifully restored and is no longer in use except for pedestrians. The ironwork image of a big steam engine along the northern wall was an interesting touch.  There are several interpretive signs with the history of Cottage Grove, the importance of the railroad there and stories of life in Cottage Grove when it was a town completely focused on timber.

Traveling east from Cottage Grove toward the Dorena Reservoir along Mosby Creek Road, we found another five bridges.  Each unique in its own way, and each with a story. 

Mosby Creek7 Mosby Creek Bridge

 Stewart8 Stewart BridgeDorena9 Dorena Bridge Currin 10 Currin BridgeThese bridges are within a few miles of each other and once again we traveled roads we might have never seen otherwise through rural parts of Oregon just off the main highways. Currin was a favorite with its red sidewalls, and the red glow from the high interior windows.

We drove back north toward Highway 58 and traveled the short distance east toward Lowell. Just south of Dexter, a few miles down a back road was the Parvin covered bridge.

11 Parvin BridgeBack again on the main highway, the familiar site of the Lowell covered bridge greeted us as we drove along the southern shore of Dexter reservoir.  Highway 58 is one of my major driving routes from Klamath Falls to Portland, but I have never actually stopped at the Lowell bridge.  This bridge is big and beautiful, with lovely windows and an especially informative and well done visitor center as part of the bridge and the parking area. The interior signboards are illuminated from within so they are easy to enjoy inside the dim light of the bridge.12 Lowell Bridge

From Lowell we drove north to the tiny town of Unity , and the Unity covered bridge.  This little bridge was a favorite, small but perfect.13 Unity Bridge

Driving back west on the back road to Jasper, we found the last bridge of the day, the Pengra covered bridge.14 Pengra Bridge

As I am writing this, I am feeling a bit the same that I did on the day we actually traveled this route.  The bridges are all running together and I am getting confused again as to which is which!  I am so glad that I have the photos to remind me of the special features of each one. Ten bridges in a day is a lot, even when they are are as closely spaced as this group. We were happy to get back to the MoHo tucked away along the river at the mall and enjoy a relaxing evening.

Our first bridges, Western Lane County

Clicking on the linked bridge names will take you to Bridgehunter.com with historical information, location maps and photos. Again, the google map and link to our tour is here. My picasaweb/google photo albums (linked at the left of this page) have many additional photos of the bridges and our trip.

Morning Beach Walk-012After spending two truly gorgeous days in Brookings at Harris Beach we decided it was time to move on north and inland.  Even though the temperatures were chilly, the sun shone for us at just the right moments to walk the beach several times a day and go see what was in bloom in Azalea Park. On Friday, however, when we packed up to leave, the rain was coming down in earnest.  In fact, no matter where we looked on the weather map in Oregon, it was raining. With Lane County having the most concentrated collection of covered bridges on our map, we decided to cross the coast mountains via Highway 126 from Florence to Eugene.

off to find our first bridge, DeadwoodThere are 4 bridges in the western part of Lane County (actually there are five, but we decided that 20 miles of back road to the Fisher Bridge at the very northern border could wait for another day). Our night destination was the ever ready Valley River Mall in Eugene, no hookups and no reservations needed.  Just a free space to be for two days in a good location for some bridge hunting. There was no rush to arrive so we could take our time ambling along the back roads finding the bridges.

the road up to Deadwood Creek is narrowFirst on our list was the Deadwood Bridge, northeast of Mapleton and Swisshome along the Suislaw River.  For the first time, (but not the last on this trip), we remarked about how unlikely it would be for us to travel this back road for any other reason, especially on a rainy gray day.  We have been past Mapleton many times, always turning east on 126 and never going north on Highway 36 along the river.  The Suislaw was full and beautiful during this time of year, and the river valley was green and dripping wet.

Deadwood BridgeWe stopped in Deadwood at a closed local store to park the MoHo and unhook since we had no idea what condition the road might be in for the additional miles on Deadwood Loop to the bridge.  It is always a bit of a surprise when you round the corner for the first view of any of these bridges.  They seem so naturally settled into the environment around them, and so sturdy and graceful.  We saw Howe Trusses for the first time, unaware that we would grow to really love the words “Howe Truss” by the end of our bridge travels.  Wikipedia has a great description of the Howe Truss, a rather amazing piece of engineering that is more prevalent in the west because we still had access to huge timbers during the early part of this century when most of these bridges were built. Another striking feature of this bridge is the slanting floor, made so to ease driving around the curve where the bridge is built.

Deadwood Bridge from the east sideWe enjoyed Deadwood and then programmed in the coordinates for the next bridge, located on Nelson Mountain Road, not too far away.  Even with good maps, there is no way to really know what condition the road might be in.  Often there is a sign that says “One Lane Bridge Ahead” but just as often there are no warnings of clearances and no clue if there is anyplace to turn around. For this reason, we tried to explore the back bridge roads with the Tracker whenever possible.  At least we could usually turn around or drive through the bridge if needed.

bridges_058Nelson Creek bridge was more open than Deadwood, and quite lovely in its rural pastoral setting.  If you look closely at the photos of each bridge, you will notice that the portals are just a bit different.  We really didn’t notice this until we had seen several bridges and were reviewing the pictures.  Somewhere along the way, we read that often the portals were changed and enlarged in later restorations to make room for the larger loads traveling through the bridges.

Wildcat Bridge, another one with high windows and one side windowWe traveled back to Deadwood to pick up the MoHo once again, and then back to Mapleton and the main highway to Eugene.  East of Mapleton, where the Suislaw River crosses the highway, is the Wildcat Bridge.  You can see it from the road, but there isn’t much of a pull off, and we had no idea how narrow the road was that curved back under the highway bridge down to the river. 

view through Wildcat BridgeMo decided to be safe and parked the MoHo off the road while I walked down to the bridge for photos.  It was a good plan!  The road is short, steep, and narrow, and the underpass of the highway is very low, with no place to turn around at the bridge.  Once again, I found an A. L Striker bridge, the superintendent of bridge building in Lane County during this time period. As well, there was another subtle difference in the portal shape, as this bridge was used for years as a passage for logging trucks over the river.

Coyote Creek BridgeJust a bit west of Eugene was another spot on the map to explore.  The Coyote Creek covered bridge  is south of Veneta, location of the infamous Oregon Country Fair.  The road to Coyote Creek is called Territorial Highway, a name that triggered all sorts of wondering as to its origin.  Along the way were some lovely pastoral farms and forests and again, the road leading to the bridge was short and narrow and steeply curved.  Once again we parked up on the main road and unhooked the Tracker to go find the bridge and once again it was a good idea.

recent renovation of Coyote Creek BridgeThe Coyote Creek bridge was in good repair, with some new siding and some old, and again, there was a subtle difference in the portal openings and in the slant of the sidewalls over the creek.  At some bridges there are signs with an explanation of the history and renovations and at others there isn’t even a nameplate. 

By the time we reached the mall it was early evening and we were ready to kick back and relax with a glass of wine and some supper.  Even before we parked, the security person met us with the paper to fill out for our free two night stay and directions to park in a different area this time since the spring games were coming up the next day and shuttles would be plying the parking lot to the University of Oregon.   

Clicking on the linked bridge names will take you to Bridgehunter.com with historical information, location maps and photos. Again, the google map and link to our tour is here. My picasaweb/google photo albums (linked at the left of this page) have many additional photos of the bridges and our trip.