Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Oregon Covered Bridges - COTTAGE GROVE REGION

In October 2009, my mother and I, and the four dogs, began a venture that would end up taking us on a journey throughout the western half of the state of Oregon. Our goal was to visit all of Oregon's covered bridges. We accomplished this goal in six weekend day trips. I have divided the covered bridges into nine regions.
Cottage Grove is known as the "Covered Bridge Capital of Oregon". Six of the covered bridges in Lane County are located in or around the City.  Though they claim to be the "Capital," I honestly believe the title should have gone to Scio.
To justify this statement, here are the facts.  Of the six covered bridges in the Cottage Grove area, only two are driveable by car, and only one of the two is still a part of the commuting road system, and only five are historically built bridges.  In Scio region, you can drive over five of the Scio's five covered bridges, and all five are still a part of the commuting road system, and all are built historically.  Though Cottage Grove has a diverse collection of covered bridge, my vote for Oregon Covered Bridge Capital still goes to Scio.
Here is what we discovered in the
Centennial Covered Bridge
World Guide Number: 37-20-e
Lane County
The Centennial Covered Bridge was built in 1987 for Cottage Grove's 100th birthday Centennial and spans 84 feet across the Coast Fork Willamette River.  At the dedication ceremony a time capsule was encased in the entrance of the bridge containing items from the 1980s.
The Centennial Covered Bridge is a 3/8 scale model of the Chambers Covered Bridge, which is located only a few hundred feet away.  The pedestrian and bike bridge was built from the remains of two previous Lane County covered bridges, (Meadows, and Brumbaugh Bridges) which had been dismantled in 1979.
The primarily volunteer effort to build the bridge proved to be a success.
To get to the Centennial Covered Bridge, exit I-5 at Cottage Grove.  The bridge is located at the corner of Main Street and River Road in downtown Cottage Grove.
The Covered Bridge Society of Oregon recognizes the Centennial Pedestrian Covered Bridge as being one of Oregon's 51 historic bridges, due to it being created from the wood of two historic covered bridges.
The Society does not recognize three other pedestrian covered bridges in Oregon that have played a role in the historic significance to the preservation of Oregon's covered bridges...the Dahlenburg and Whittmore replica bridges in Sweet Home, and the Canyonville Pedestrian bridge in Canyonville.
Chambers Railroad Covered Bridge
World Guide Number: 37-20-40
Lane County
The current Chambers Railroad Covered Bridge was built in 1936 using the Howe truss design and spans 78 feet across the Coast Fork of the Willamette River.
The Chambers Bridge is the last covered railroad bridge in Oregon, and the last railroad bridge west of the Mississippi River. It was built by the Oregon, Pacific and Eastern Railroad for a logging spur, which brought logs to the Frank Chambers Mill in Cottage Grove.  The bridge has two dates of creation, 1925 and 1936.  The 1936 date is likely a time when the bridge was either referbished or replaced.  The actual use for the bridge was short, as the sawmill burned in 1943 and rail traffic no longer crossed the bridge.
Built to accommodate steam engines pulling logging trains, the sides of the Chambers Bridge reach much higher than highway covered spans and give the bridge an appearance of being much longer than its actual length.
Although the bridge trusses are now exposed, at one time the siding completely enclosed the structure to afford maximum protection for the timbers. In the typical construction for railroad spans, truss members of Herculean proportions were necessary to support the moving weight of rail payloads.
Abandoned for years, the bridge has been a frequent target of arsonists, as the charred timbers attest. Fortunately, the bridge has not succumbed to fire...yet!
The bridge was inspected under the 1993-95 Covered Bridge Program. The bottom chords show extensive decay, and in some places three of the four members are rotted. In several places all three members of the floor beams are rotted. Corbels are decayed and crushed, which makes the house lean as much as 12 inches to the upstream side.
It is sad to think that the last remaining railroad covered bridge in Oregon, and the last west of the Mississippi, is on a fast road to destruction.
COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. February 17, 2010
The race is on to save the historic Chambers Railroad Bridge. But will the trestle tumble first?
The Cottage Grove City Council passed an emergency resolution Tuesday night to speed up removal of the long-neglected 125-year-old span over the Willamette River. But the plan must first be approved by state and federal regulators.
Last year, Cottage Grove received a $1.3 million grant from the National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program. Meyers said city officials originally planned to remove the bridge last summer but pushed back the timeline a year because of red tape.
Meyers said the city wants to begin removing the bridge as early as next week. The plan is then to rebuild the bridge as a tourist destination, with better access and historical panels. The city is chipping in nearly $140,000 for the project and collecting donations from the public.
To get there, exit I-5 at Cottage Grove. Travel south on Highway 99 to Harrison Avenue. Turn west on Harrison to Old River Road. Turn south on Old River Road. Chambers RR is off of Old River Road just south of Harrison.
Currin Covered Bridge
World Guide Number: 37-20-22
Lane County
The Currin Covered Bridge was built in 1925 using the Howe truss design and spans 105 feet across the Row River.
"Row" is not pronounced the same way we sing "Row row row your boat"...but its pronunciation does rhyme with "Wow" or "Cow."
Architectural distinctions include single piece hand-hewn chords and cross-wise planking on the approach. It is Oregon's only covered bridge with white portals and red sides.
In the Cottage Grove City Hall building, a scale model of the Currin Bridge, shown at the 1986 World's Fair in Vancouver, B.C., is on display.  Though you can no longer drive across the Currin Covered Bridge, you can walk across it.
To get there, travel four miles southeast of Cottage Grove on Row River Road to the intersection of Layng Road. The bridge crosses the Row River at this location and is located one mile from the Mosby Creek Bridge, also on Layng Road.
Mosby Covered Bridge
World Guide Number: 37-20-27
Lane County
The Mosby Covered Bridge was built in 1920 with the Howe truss design and spans 90 feet across Mosby Creek.
The Mosby Creek Bridge is Lane County’s oldest covered bridge, having been built at a cost of $4,125 by Walter and Miller Sorenson.  Oddly enough, the oldest Lane County covered bridge is the only covered bridge in the Cottage Grove Region that is still use on the commuting road system.
To get there, travel one mile east of Cottage Grove on Row River Road. Follow the sign to Mosby Creek Road by turning right, and crossing the railroad track. Turn left on Mosby Creek Road and travel southeast two miles to the bridge. Alternately, from Currin Bridge continue southwest on Layng Road to Mile Point 0.2 to Mosby Creek Bridge.
Stewart Covered Bridge
World Guide Number: 37-20-28
Lane County
The Stewart Covered Bridge was built in 1930 with the Howe truss design and spans 60 feet across Mosby Creek.
As with other wooden bridges in Oregon, the Stewart Bridge has had its share of woes. Heavy rains of the 1964 "Christmas Flood" brought water raging down Mosby Creek with the resulting force cracking the lower chords of the bridge.
Just over four years later, a heavy snowstorm dropped more than three feet of snow on most of the Willamette Valley. The roof bracing gave way under the weight of the snow, and the entire roof caved in.
Repairs to the bridge once again made it usable, and it carried a 20-ton limit until it was bypassed in the mid-1980s by a concrete span.
The bridge's major woes today is surviving vandalism.  Surveillance cameras now monitor the bridge and grounds around the bridge.  A swimming hole underneath the bridge is busy during the summer with swimmers.
To get there, travel one mile east of Cottage Grove on Row River Road. Follow the sign to Mosby Creek Road, turning right and crossing the railroad tracks. Turn left (south) on Mosby Creek Road and travel approximately 3.5 miles to Garoutte Road.
Dorena Covered Bridge
World Guide Number: 37-20-23
Lane County
The Dorena Covered Bridge was built in 1945 with the Howe truss design and spans 105 feet across the Row River.  The pronunciation of the "Row" River rhymes with "Cow".
When Dorena Dam was built in 1946, plans were made to span the Row River at the upper end of the reservoir. Government Road along the west bank was completed in 1949, and the Dorena Bridge was built a year later after the reservoir was filled, at a cost of $16,547.
The bridge is often referred to as the "Star Bridge" because it provided access to the nearby Star Ranch.
Once a large and proud estate, the ranch has been reduced to about 100 acres.
The state-designed bridge was bypassed in 1974 by a concrete span.  You can still drive across the Dorena Covered Bridge, but the driving is for tourist purposes only.  Once across the bridge, you have to turn around and drive back over it.  The Dorena Covered Bridge is one of the widest covered bridges in Oregon.
The original town site, named for Dora Burnette and Rena Martin (by combining parts of their first names) is underwater at the bottom of the reservoir.
A railroad in the vicinity served the mining camps until the gold mines played out.
The lumber industry developed and used the rails to ship logs to Cottage Grove.  Until 1987, the rails were used by a steam-powered excursion train. The cost of liability insurance increased too much to keep it going, and only freight traffic passes today.
A few miles up river from the Dorena Covered Bridge, you'll find the Wildwood Falls.  This small break in the otherwise relatively calm Row River is known for being one of the best swimming holes in the area.
On sunny days, you'll likely see local swimmers here, relaxing on the banks of the river, or jumping from atop the falls into the large pool at it's base.  But don't let the enjoyable scene deceive you.  Several drownings have occurred yearly at these falls.  Even the experienced swimmers have lost the battle here.

To get to the Dorena Covered Bridge, travel five miles east of Cottage Grove on Row River Road to the junction of Government Road. Continue east on Government Road seven miles to the bridge.


Ed Armstrong said...

The sign on the Chambers Bridge says it was built in 1925 and abandoned in 1932 after a mill burned to which it was supplying logs. where did you get the information that the siding extended all the way down? From my observation I doubt that it did. Nice shots of covered bridges Steven.

Steven Michael said...

Dear Ed,

I got most the information from the Oregon Covered Bridge Society in which I feel is most accurate, and from ~ covered bridges website. I also varified internet information with books.

The bridge was not built in 1925, and was likely referbished in 1936...but a covered bridge has been at that site since 1925. Internet sites and books indicate the mill burned in 1943, and the rail was abandoned shortly after.

In regards to the siding, if you look at historic pictures of railroad covered bridges, the siding went all the way down. This information has been documented by the Oregon Covered Bridge Society. What you observe today, is not what it was then.

I checked my accuracy with up to 6 sources and several phone calls. I stand by what I wrote.

Thanks for questions.