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Scenic covered bridges evoke nostalgia

Lately bridges are popping onto my screen. No, not out of my mouth. The creek straddling type.

First, I saw the musical adaptation of “The Bridges of Madison County” beautifully performed by the Oregon Collaborative Theater of Medford.

Then as a theme in a piece I wrote for the upcoming summer issue of Southern Oregon Wine Scene magazine.

Just this week my favorite daughter, Emily, and I met one another halfway — she from Portland, me from Eagle Point. Cottage Grove lies in the middle for the perfect meet-up spot. This area boasts of having the most covered bridges in a 35 mile area than anywhere else in the state. We located five of six on a map the Village Green resort handed us.

We snapped pictures of ourselves on the various structures and looked for fish in the water below.

After returning home, I began thinking of our historical country relics closer to home and better suited to this column’s name.

What is it about covered bridges that evokes nostalgia? I mean, they were simply necessary conveyances for horse and foot traffic back in the day — a way for folks to cross over a stream without muddying up their trousers. They represent our past like old barns. The covering extends the bridge’s life by preventing rot. An open wooden bridge is good for about 20 years, but a covered bridge can live to be 100. The website tunnel13.com/bridges claims there are 51 covered bridges in our state with four residing in Jackson County and one in Josephine County. I think I’ve seen all five, but may have to revisit this year.

Grave Creek Bridge represents Josephine County. Built in 1920 and before Interstate 5, it was part of the main thoroughfare through Sunny Valley just north of Grants Pass. Public outcry saved it from the wrecking ball, and she was restored for traffic in 2001. To visit, take the Sunny Valley exit from I-5.

It may also be seen from the highway, but I can’t recommend snapping a photo from there.

First among the four Jackson County bridges spans Little Butte Creek right here in good old Eagle Point, I’m proud to say.

Originally built in 1922, it straddled Antelope Creek about 10 miles out of town. In 1987, with help from the historical society and the local townsfolk, it was moved to its present downtown location. It makes a comely centerpiece for the Fourth of July.

No. 2 is Lost Creek Bridge in the Lake Creek area off of Highway 140. It may be the oldest having been built in 1919, according to records, but could be from the 1800s, according to local historians. LCB is definitely our shortest at just 39 feet.

The bridge is part of the Walch Memorial Wayside Park maintained by family descendants. Not open to vehicle traffic, you can still trod across on foot or pack mule.

The third example is the Wimer Bridge over Evans Creek just north of Rogue River. Originally from 1892, according to a placard there and replaced in 1927, this guy nearly collapsed into oblivion in July of 2003.

Yet again, the citizens rallied for a rebuild and celebrated the new structure with a ceremony five years later.

I saved McKee Bridge for last. Spanning the glorious Applegate River, it’s our southernmost bridge situated 8 miles from the California border. Seven years ago, work was completed reinforcing its structural integrity. June 8 is McKee Bridge Day.

From 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., a special event is planned in collaboration with Friends of the Animal Shelter. Visit applegateconnect.org for more info.

Next to the bridge is a scenic park made for picnics and built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. To get there, go through Jacksonville on Highway 238 to Ruch. Turn left onto Applegate Road and follow the signs of Applegate Dam to the McKee Bridge wayside.

Our covered bridges may be more spread out, but think of all the great scenery you’ll get to ogle in between. Happy travels!

Peggy Dover is a freelance writer and author. Reach her at pcdover@hotmail.com and on her Facebook page.