Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Oregon Covered Bridges -WILLAMETTE VALLEY- Corvallis/Salem REGIONS

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.
Here is what we discovered in the
Harris Covered Bridge
World Guide Number: 37-02-04
Benton County
The Harris Covered Bridge was built in 1936 with the Howe truss design and spans 75 feet across the Marys River.
The Harris Bridge was built by H. W. Fiedler to replace a covered bridge at the same site. Although Benton County records show 1936 as the construction date, some locals claim the span may have been built in 1929.
The Harris Bridge retains its rounded portal design and other features include narrow windows below the roofline to light the bridge interior and longitudinal deck planks. The siding is board and batten style, and the roof is shingled.
These features and its country setting make this bridge one of the most photographed.  I really liked the setting with this bridge.  It will be worth it to me to revisit the Harris Covered Bridge again, in different lighting and season.
Harris has been a community since 1890, bearing the name of a pioneer landowner. When the post office was established, residents petitioned for the name of Harris, but postal authorities feared confusion might develop with nearby Harrisburg.
The town was known as Elam, for Mrs. Gladys Elam, but the name of the community was later changed to Harris.

Some historic old homes and out buildings, and the Harris Bridge are the only remaining features to the town of Harris.  Today, the train still passes through the valley twice a day, and the log trucks still roll out of the foothills, but for the most part all is still, except for the hustle and hard work centered around the Harris Bridge Vineyard and Winery.
The winery produces ultra-premium dessert wines from Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grape varieties. Their tasting room overlooks the vineyard, Mary's River, and the historic Harris Covered Bridge.

To get there from Corvallis, take Highway 20 through Philomath to Wren. Exit the highway, turn right twice to head back under the highway (veering) to the right at the "Y". Continue to travel west on Harris Road for approximately 2.5 miles.
Irish Bend Covered Bridge
World Guide Number: 37-02-09
Benton County
The Irish Bend Covered Bridge was built in 1954 with the Howe truss design and now spans 60 feet across Oak Creek.
The span originally was constructed over the Long Tom River about 30 miles to the south and later moved to the Irish Bend site.  The bridge was floated downstream to be relocated to a new site.

Because no maintenance had been performed for more than 15 years, many of the timbers had rotted. New stringers were donated by a local mill, and an engineering firm provided the new foundation without charge.

The bridge site is part of a path through the research farm between 35th and 53rd Streets on the west side of the OSU campus.  In the photo above, my mother appreciates a bench after walking a mile to get to the bridge.
While the university owns the property, the Benton County Parks Department will carry out maintenance, since the bridge is part of a bicycle and pedestrian path along Oak Creek.

While on the hike to the covered bridge, Maxx was getting the "Cesar Milan" lesson.
For continually barking at passing hikers and bikers, Cesar suggests you force the dog to the ground and placed in a submissive position each time he negatively reacts to others on the trail.

After about 10 to 15 'ground-flattening' experiences, he started to get the hint.  By the end of the walk, he was doing a lot better.
Pynekone is still learning how to follow us once we're out of the car.  Though the front door was open, he wanted to follow us through the window.  He's funny to watch.

To get there from I-5, take the 234 exit at Albany, travel southwest on Highway 20 to Corvallis. Follow Highway 34 southwest toward Philomath. Turn right (north) on 53rd Street and park in the County Fairgrounds on the west side of 53rd. Follow the footpath (Campus Way) on the east side of 53rd to the bridge.
Buena Vista River Ferry
Willamette River ~ Willamette Valley
Since our covered bridge tour was taking us back in time, experiencing the ride across the Willamette River on river ferry was just icing on the adventure.
 The Buena Vista Ferry connects Marion and Polk counties across the Willamette River just south of Independence. The current ferry has been in continuous operation since 1955 providing daily shuttle service to the public, including motorized vehicles.
The river is approximately 720 feet wide at the crossing. The cable ferry has a capacity of four vehicles.
This day, at this time, we were the only car crossing the river.
Founded in 1852, Buena Vista Ferry is one of the oldest continuous operating ferries in the state. The current ferry has been in continuous operation since 1955 providing daily shuttle service to the public, including motorized vehicles, from April through October each year.
 The Buena Vista Ferry is one of the three remaining Willamette River ferries still in operation.
The Buena Vista Ferry creates a sense of community for people and businesses on both sides of the river. Local clubs use the ferry for bicycling events and a non-profit group has developed a water trail (canoe/kayak trail route) along the Willamette River from the Buena Vista Ferry up to the Wheatland Ferry.

To get there from Salem, travel south 14 miles to the Talbot exit, (exit 242).  Travel west through the little community of Talbot and continue to the Buena Vista Road.  Take a left, (west), and a short distance to the Buena Vista Ferry crossing.
Ritner Creek Covered Bridge
World Guide Number: 37-27-01
Polk County
The Ritner Creek Covered Bridge was built in 1927 with the Howe truss design and spans 75 feet across Ritner Creek.

The Ritner Creek Bridge was the last remaining covered bridge on an Oregon State highway.
In 1976, the bridge was lifted from its foundation and relocated just downstream of its original site and replaced by a concrete bridge.
The original portal design was rounded at the edges but was changed to a square design in the early 1960s to accommodate larger loads to pass.

Today, the covered bridge has center stage within the Ritner Creek Covered Bridge County Park.
The Ritner bridge is one of two Oregon covered bridges that has utilized the inside of the covered bridge for picnicking.

To get there from Interstate 5, take exit 258 and follow Portland Road 5 miles to the junction of Highway 22 (Marion Street). Turn right (west) crossing the Willamette River, and continue 17 miles to Dallas. From Dallas travel south on Highway 223 approximately 12 miles through Pedee. Ritner Creek Bridge is approximately 3.5 miles south of Pedee.
Wheatland River Ferry
Willamette River ~ Willamette Valley
A nice side trek to experience while traveling from one covered bridge to the other is to cross the Willamette River on a river ferry.  Not only do you get a short ride across the river, but also a sense of the way past travel once had to rely upon.   
The Wheatland Ferry is a cable ferry that connects Marion County and Yamhill across the Willamette River. The ferry travels approximately 580 feet across the river (depending on the height of the river).
The current ferry is powered by two electric motors that are powered from an on-board diesel generator. Two steel cables, one under water on the downriver side, and one overhead on the upriver side support the ferry. The ferry also uses the overhead cables for steering. The ferry also uses the overhead cables for steering.

The ferry is a joint operation of Marion and Yamhill counties, with Marion County taking the responsibility of staffing and operating the ferry. It operates every day that river conditions permit. In summer low water levels threaten to cause the ferry to bottom out. Dredging is sometimes employed to deepen the ferry's crossing lane to keep it operating longer.  During rainy months high water levels and fast current can stop operations.
The Wheatland Ferry is one of the three remaining Willamette River ferries still in operation.  To get there from Salem, travel north through Keizer.  A few miles north of Keizer, take a left on Wheatland Road, and travel north for about 9 miles to the Wheatland Ferry crossing.
Gallon House Covered Bridge
World Guide Number: 37-24-01
Marion County
The Gallon House Covered Bridge was built in 1917 with the Howe truss design and spans 84 feet across Abiqua Creek.

The span is the last of Marion County's original covered bridges, and is located a little more than a mile northwest of Silverton.  The Gallon House Covered Bridge is the oldest existing covered bridge, in its original location, that you can still drive a car over.

The name Gallon House was due to the bridge's use as a "pigeon drop" for liquor at the north entrance. Operators at a liquor dispensary nearby sold "white lightening" whiskey by the gallon to Silverton residents. At the time, Silverton was "dry," not allowing liquor to be sold in town; while Mt. Angel was "wet."

During the Christmas Flood of 1964, the bridge suffered considerable damage. The County Board of Commissioners; however, decided the bridge should be repaired and maintained as an historical landmark, as it was the only covered bridge in the county at the time.

Since its construction in 1916, the bridge has been repaired numerous times. Historian Ben Maxwell describes a prior bridge repair in 1960: "Marion County recently reconstructed the old Gallon House bridge near Mt. Angel just for the sake of preserving a landmark. It still looks like an overgrown doghouse - at least they could have painted it red for the sake of conformity."
The two rocks in the foreground of the photo above are favorite rock.  I am not aware of concretions of this size being in the valley, but they could.  My guess is these two rocks were brought in.

To get there from Salem, travel north on Highway 213 (Silverton Road NE) about 14 miles to Silverton. At Silverton travel north on Highway 214 about 1.5 miles to Hobart Road. Turn west on Hobart to Gallon House Road (0.5 mi.). Turn north on Gallon House Road.
Stayton-Jordan Covered Bridge
World Guide Number: 37-24-02
Marion County
The Stayton-Jordan Covered Bridge was built in 1998 with the Howe truss design and spans 90 feet across the Salem Power Canal.

Prior to 1986, the Jordan Bridge spanned Thomas Creek in neighboring Linn County several miles east of Scio. The original bridge location had once been the site for a dam, a cheese factory, two mills and a general store.

When Linn County announced the aging Jordan Bridge was to be replaced in 1986, Stayton residents asked if they could take title to the structure. A covered bridge preservation company was formed, enlisting the help of numerous volunteers and Marine Corps reservists for the 6th Engineering Battalion in Salem.

The span was rebuilt over the Salem Power Canal to serve as a foot bridge connecting two parks. The process of rebuilding the Jordan Bridge occupied nearly two years, culminating in a dedication ceremony in June 1988.

Though everyone had good intentions by saving the Jordan Covered Bridge, the bridges new life and home was soon extinguished.
In the Tuesday, December 27, 1994, edition of The Stayton Mail, the headlines read "A community dream in ashes."
The bridge had tragically caught fire December 20th at 2 a.m. when Christmas lights ignited the roof and burnt the bridge down.

The city decided to demolish the trusses and burn what remained of the bridge.
Local citizens toiled throughout 1997 and 1998 to construct a new covered bridge at the site.

The new bridge incorporates glue laminated members for added strength and was dedicated in September 1998.
At the time of our visit to the Jordan Covered Bridge, there was a cougar siting in the park.  Though we never saw the cougar, we did proceed around the bridge with caution.  We didn't stay long, and the dogs were not let out of the car.

To get there from Interstate 5, take the 253 Salem Exit, and travel east on Highway 22 for 15 miles to the Stayton /Sublimity turnoff. Travel south one mile to Stayton. Turn east on Marion Street to Pioneer Park.
Free Enterprize Covered Bridge

World Guide Number: 37-27-B
Polk County
The Free Enterprize Covered Bridge was built in 1982 with the Stringer design and spans 38 feet across Gold Creek.
This privately owned bridge allows access to the owner's property.  A stringer design are basically walls with a roof over a bridge.

This covered bridge is not designed with a traditional covered bridge style like the Howe, or Queen truss; therefore, the World Guide Number ends with the letter 'B' indicating a non true covered bridge.  Non-the-less, we enjoyed visiting this quaint little rustic covered bridge.

We noticed that the flooring of the bridge was recently replaced, and the roofing structure was not attached to the flooring when we visited.  Old bridge planking was stacked in a pile near the new bridge.
To get there from Grand Ronde, travel east on OR18 3.1 miles from jct. with Grand Ronde Rd. in Grand Rd., S. & SE on Yamhill River Rd. 0.8 miles, S. on Gold Creek Rd. 0.25 miles to the bridge on the E. side of the road.


Anonymous said...

Hi Steve, I don't see Fortner Covered Bridge listed. Did you get that one. This site is wonderful.

Steven Michael said...

Hey Judy,

You're didn't see the Fortner Covered Bridge in any of my blogs. The reason for this is because when my mother and I stopped by the house and property in which the bridge is on, we were rudely turned away by the owners. They would not let me go down and photograph it. It was instead, we went to the nearby Free Interprise Covered Bridge. I hope to get to it someday...?