Tag Archives: covered bridges

Exploring the Willamette Valley: Covered Bridges near McKenzie Bridge

Parvin bridgeSo I’ve had a really busy couple of last weeks… I went to the PNWA writer’s conference two weekends ago, but I’m still letting the experience filter through my brain mentally and so will be writing on it belatedly. Instead, I needed a perfect way to unwind, and so when my father suggested we go on a drive to find some covered bridges just southeast of Eugene, Oregon, I jumped on it.Unity bridge

People who haven’t gone looking for covered bridges mostly don’t understand why it’s so much fun. I know I didn’t before my father first talked me into it. But once I tried it, I was hooked. There’s several fun aspects of it. First, you have to find the bridges. While there’s directions online, those are only so good, and so there’s always a bit of a question as to if you’ll be able to find the bridge, if the bridge is still there even. In that respect, it’s rather like a treasure hunt, usually traveling around beautiful Oregon countryside and farms.

Then, a covered bridge itself is really quite lovely to visit. Usually it’s over a quiet and rather charming river, with lots of plants, flowers, farm houses, and other pastoral scenery. The bridge itself can frame very lovely views of slices of countryside or river, and so it’s rather like going to an interesting park. Also, some of them have interesting histories, which is what my father enjoys. He likes to read up on the bridges, when and how they were built, Oregon history surrounding them, and get several photos of each bridge.

Lowell bridgeEugene is definitely the right area of Oregon for covered bridges. While it took a bit longer to arrive in the area, once we got there all the bridges were close together. The first one we visited, Parvin Bridge, was off on a quiet back road and quite charming. Since it was still in use, we took care to watch for traffic, but there wasn’t any, so we got to fully explore the bridge at our leisure.

The second bridge, Lowell, surprised us by being on a lake more than a river. A dam upriver had changed the flow of the water and so the bridge was more on a dock attached to the main road’s modern bridge.Lowell bridge 2 It is also a much larger covered bridge and historical exhibits are housed inside of it with lots of interesting information. On the downside, it has a pigeon problem, which makes much of the floor of the once lovely bridge covered in bird poop and lots of annoying birds flying around inside it.

However, not only was it still an interesting bridge despite the birds, but it had a very handy map of all covered bridges in the area. Looking at the pictures, my mother and I saw a distinctive red bridge we instantly fell in love with and wanted to see, one that was not on the tour my dad had constructed from research online. Since it was only 20 mi out of the way, we decided to go see it.

Office bridgeOffice Bridge was well worth the detour. It has a covered pedestrian walkway built into the side of the covered bridge that makes it quite unusual. According to the signs, it is also the longest covered bridge in Oregon. The bridge itself can be driven across but leads only to a parking lot and park, with a number of hiking and biking trails leading off from it. There was also a cute cafe and lodge across the street from the bridge that looks like it’d be a great place to stay.

We went looking for Pengra Bridge and found Unity Bridge first, since our directions didn’t quite work out. Unity is currently under construction, replacing the roof, and on a bit busier of a street, but I still got a really nice view from the bridge in between traffic.Pengra bridge

Eventually after several wrong turns and extra exploration, we found Pengra as well, which was on another quiet road and worth the hunt. Overall, I had a fantastic time and would like to see more of the covered bridges another time.

Exploring the Willamette Valley: Covered Bridges

320083_277325128960677_4311291_nWhile the Willamette Valley is not the Columbia River Gorge, it’s a bit unfair to make that comparison. Really, the gorge is stunning on a global scale, while the Willamette Valley is more of a plain nice. I’ve always liked it and found the Western Oregon countryside pretty and only been a bit disappointed by it lately because of my recent move from the gorge, so I was excited when my parents and aunt invited me along on a covered bridge tour across the mid-Willamette Valley in the Stayton/Albany/Corvallis/Monmouth area. There are also a number of nice bridges down by Eugene/Cottage Grove, but my parents did those last fall and were using my aunt’s visit as a good excuse to find some new bridges they hadn’t seen yet.

Now, while I recall a “Covered Bridge Festival” in Stayton when I worked there about 5 or 6 years ago, I’d never really paid much attention to them before. My father though, gained an interest in them after reading an article in the paper about Oregon bridges and when and how they were built. I’d heard from both my parents that finding the bridges was quite enjoyable, and I found my experience with them was indeed terrific.

First, it’s a bit fun to look up the bridges, where they’re located and when they’re built. Then you have to find them, which takes some doing. The directions online are not always the best. We found 6 out of 8 bridges on our trip. One we decided we didn’t have time for and one simply wasn’t where the directions claimed it would be. The hunt was a lot of fun, and it was good I knew one of the bridges from living in Corvallis, because the directions were incorrect for that one too.

315843_277321765627680_4120616_nWhile driving to the bridges, you also see a lot of really nice countryside. The day we’d picked was a lovely summer day. It got hot in the mid-afternoon, but other than that it was perfect. Then, the bridges themselves have a rather spiritual quality to them. The best ones are the ones that have been moved off the main road, because you can walk through them. They frame the water of the small rivers they go over in so many beautiful ways. They sort of combine a house, a road, and a church all together in one. I had many lovely moments—seeing a crayfish swimming when looking down through the bridge slats, butterflies on the reeds along the bank, climbing a train bridge next to the covered bridge for a better look at one that’s along a road. I’ve arranged to join my parents next fall as they take a third trip to find yet more bridges. I can’t wait. It’ll help me start to explore the mid-valley more and find good places to walk and get out in nature.

And the gorge is still waiting for me. I plan to drive out there this week and soak up as much of it as possible in a brief visit with my writing group in Hood River.