The six covered bridges of madison county, Iowa may have been immortalized in print and on film, but the covered bridges of Lane County, Oregon have all the history and charm of their Iowa counterparts — and there are 20 of them!
Although the state of Oregon might not immediately come to mind when you think of covered bridges, maybe it should. Bill Cockrell, president of the Covered Bridge Society of Oregon explains, "Oregon has the largest collection of covered bridges west of the Mississippi, and the state ranks sixth in the nation in the number of covered bridges still standing." Lane County has the most covered bridges in the state, and the Lane County "hot spot" for covered bridge viewing is Cottage Grove, where six of the county's 20 bridges can be found.
Want to continue discovering the bridges of Lane County? Bill Cockrell has these suggestions: "I'd recommend going towards Dexter to see the recently rehabilitated Lowell Bridge, and then visit the Unity and Parvin bridges near Jasper."
Be sure to spend some time exploring Main Street, Cottage Grove. According to the Cottage Grove Historical Society, downtown Cottage Grove features the most intact collection of early 20th century buildings in Lane County.
Websites to visit:
Covered Bridge Society of Oregon
Cottage Grove is "the covered bridge capital of Oregon," according to Tim Flowerday, executive director of the Cottage Grove Chamber of Commerce. "We began actively promoting our covered bridges when we received our scenic byway designation from the Oregon Department of Transportation in 2000," says Flowerday, and the chamber has developed a guide to the Cottage Grove Covered Bridge Scenic Byway, a 20-mile loop spotlighting area bridges.
The journey begins at exit 174 off Interstate 5. Head east on Row River Road, and turn right on Layng Road. Just past the intersection, you'll find the Currin Bridge. The bridge was built in 1925, and its continued existence gives testimony to the value Cottage Grove residents place on their covered bridges. In the late 1920s, flood waters lifted the bridge off its pilings and washed it downstream. When the waters receded, workers dismantled the wrecked bridge, hauled the pieces back upstream and rebuilt the bridge at its original site. Today, the Currin Bridge is closed to vehicle traffic, but remains open for the enjoyment of pedestrians and cyclists.
A bit further down Layng Road is the Mosby Creek Bridge, the oldest covered bridge in Lane County. Built in 1920, this lovely one-lane bridge is still open to vehicle traffic. The traffic can make photographing the bridge interior a bit challenging, but the lush, pastoral setting of this bridge makes the challenge worthwhile.
At the corner of Layng Road and Mosby Creek Road, turn left and continue east to Garoutte Road to see the Stewart Bridge, built in 1930. This bridge has also seen its share of adversity. Flooding damaged the bridge in 1964, and heavy snow caused the roof to collapse a few years later. Once again, area bridge preservationists came to the rescue. Although the Stewart Bridge has now been bypassed by a concrete span just a few yards downstream, it remains open to pedestrians.
At this point, history seekers can continue following Mosby Creek Road east for about five miles to visit the Dorena Covered Bridge (built in 1949), or turn right and head into Cottage Grove to explore Cottage Grove's Main Street National Historic District and visit the city's two other covered bridges.
Near the end of Main Street, just past city hall, is Cottage Grove's newest covered bridge — Centennial Bridge. Centennial Bridge was built in 1987, to celebrate Cottage Grove's 100th anniversary. Although this small pedestrian bridge lacks the history of its more venerable neighbors, Centennial Bridge does incorporate a lot of area history into its structure. The bridge was built of timbers saved from two earlier area covered bridges, and is an accurate 3/8-scale model of the Chambers Railroad Bridge, which lies just downstream from Centennial Bridge.
To visit the Chambers Railroad Bridge, turn left on River Road and head south to Harrison Avenue. The Chambers Railroad Bridge is a huge structure, rough and raw-looking compared to other Cottage Grove bridges. The bridge was built in 1925, and has the distinction of being the only remaining covered railroad bridge in Oregon. Unlike the other bridges in Cottage Grove, the Chambers bridge has yet to be restored and definitely shows the ravages of time. That's all about to change, however. "The title to the Chambers Railroad Bridge has just been transferred to the city of Cottage Grove," says Cockerell. Considering the loving care the citizens of Cottage Grove have taken of their other bridges, it's likely only a matter of time before the Chambers Bridge is restored to its former glory.
For more information on Cottage Grove's covered bridges, contact the chamber at (541) 942-2411. v