Memories aren't made of concrete, but sometimes bridges are.

Memories aren't made of concrete, but sometimes bridges are.

For most people, a bridge is a way to get to the other side, and once they get there, the bridge is gone.

Rick Aubin, of Medford, isn't one of those people. Bridges are one of his hobbies. When he crosses a newly discovered bridge, it's likely that he'll get out of his car and take a photograph.

"I like old bridges and old highways," said Aubin, "So I drive around with a friend and every once in a while find some real cool ones."

Aubin has been over the Prospect Bridge many times, but like most people, he doesn't know much about its history.

Although there may have been some sort of wooden bridge crossing the Rogue at this point before 1880, the earliest documented bridge was funded by Jackson County commissioners, who ordered that the structure be completed by July 4, 1881.

In 1903, Kate Myers, a recent arrival in the valley, headed for Crater Lake, wanting to take photographs of the Rogue River rapids from the bridge.

"We could not get the view we had expected, for it was a covered bridge," she said, "but some friendly Kodak fiend had knocked a few holes in it, through which we got a few glimpses."

That covered bridge stood until the current bridge was built next to it, in the early 1920s; however, the exact completion date has so far eluded historians.

With its 80-foot concrete arch spanning the cliffs, bridge enthusiasts know right away that this is a Conde McCullough bridge. McCullough, who was Oregon's bridge engineer from 1919 to 1937, is credited with the basic designs of most of the state's historic highway bridges.

Although the bridge was built by the state, it was transferred to Jackson County in 1969, when the new Highway 62 between Cascade Gorge and Prospect was completed.

"At the time," said Jackson County Engineer Dale Petrasek, "the county planning department recommended that the state rename that portion of the Old Crater Lake Highway as Mill Creek Drive."

Petrasek has photocopies of some of the original bridge plans dated between April 1921 and August 1922. Included in the plans is a stairway that was never built and the location of a dedication nameplate that has vanished.

Also missing are the four electric light pillars that once lit the bridge at night. Formed in the style of Egyptian oil lamps they were typical of McCullough, who saw bridges as works of art.

The bridge might have been completed in 1923, when the state spent nearly $300,000 on road improvements south of Prospect. It definitely was completed by 1927, when a newspaper article mentions "the concrete bridge" near the Mill Creek Falls.

You don't have to be a bridge lover to enjoy the stunning scenery, roaring rapids and the cool mist that you'll find once you cross over. Just be ready to take pictures. After all, what's a memory without a snapshot?

Bill Miller is a freelance writer living in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@yahoo.com.