Oregon’s Covered Bridges: Portals to the Past

Currin Covered Bridge
Currin Covered Bridge—Lane County, Cottage Grove, Oregon

A covered bridge is more than a barn across a stream. It is an engineering marvel, obtaining as much strength with as little material as possible. Roofs Over Rivers by Bill and Nick Cockrell  

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In February, my husband and I, celebrating our thirty-one years together, whoo-hoo! headed for the Oregon Coast for a week along its southern shoreline. Once the reservations were made, I began planning and mapping places of interest, which included a stop in Cottage Grove to view the covered bridges. Like portals to the past, everything about them sparks my curiosity.

Two hours, and forty-five minutes, and 160 miles from home, we were in Cottage Grove at the southernmost end of the Willamette Valley in Lane County; a city known as the “Covered Bridge Capital of Oregon,” and rightly so. Lane County is home to twenty covered bridges, six of them in the Cottage Grove area, and what is part of the Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway.

Currin Covered Bridge
Currin Covered Bridge, Row River Crossing—Lane County, Cottage Grove, Oregon

Our first stop was Currin Covered Bridge. At 105 feet long, the timber-truss was built in 1925 replacing the original bridge that was built in 1883. Beautifully designed, it is the only covered bridge in Oregon with red sides and white portals. The bridge is retired to foot traffic only, and there is a paved parking area, which was empty during our visit. Except for an occasional car passing by, it was peaceful, as farm country should be. At the bridge entrance, we had to watch our footing.  It had just rained, and the boards were as slick as ice. Inside, the bridge was dry as a bone. We could hear the echo of the Row River rushing underneath us. Through gaps in the floorboards, we could see its swift and muddy waters.

Currin Covered Bridge
A portal to the past—Currin Covered Bridge built in 1925 in Lane County, Cottage Grove, Oregon
sized_hdr Currin Covered Bridge (1925) over Row River Cottage Grove OR 2-2015_016 copy 2
Exquisite details inside Currin Covered Bridge—Lane County, Cottage Grove, Oregon

As we walked from one end of the bridge to the other, it almost felt as if we were inside someone‘s home. I couldn’t get over how beautiful this bridge was inside and out. The careful attention to detail among its hand-hewn timbers and crosswise beams was spectacular! Chris wanted to know why covered bridges are covered. Someone else also asked me that same question recently. It was a good question too. One I hadn’t considered. The cover protects the bridge from weather. So while a timber-truss bridge left uncovered may last only 10 to 15 years, a covered bridge will last decades. 

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Our next stop was about a mile from Currin Covered Bridge to Mosby Creek Covered Bridge (sometimes called Layng Bridge) that crosses Mosby Creek. This one we got to drive through, which was delightful, but it also meant that we couldn’t safely explore in detail. Yet, the Mosby Creek Bridge did not disappoint us. It offered some splendid side views of its 90-foot span across the creek. The Bridge is named for David Mosby, a pioneer of 1853 who staked a land claim of 1,600 acres. The bridge was built in 1920, and is the oldest covered bridge in Lane County.

Mosby Covered Bridge
Mosby Creek Covered Bridge—Lane County, Cottage Grove, Oregon
Mosby Creek Bridge
Mosby Creek Covered Bridge—Lane County, Cottage Grove, Oregon

Adding to the attraction was the Mosby Creek Rails-to-Trails Bridge, an all steel railroad truss that was built in 1950. It is also called the “Stand by Me” Bridge for its appearance in the 1986 movie Stand by Me.

Mosby Steel Truss Bridge (aka “Stand by Me” Bridge
Mosby Steel Truss Bridge (aka “Stand by Me” Bridge)—Lane County, Cottage Grove, Oregon
Stand by Me
From the 1986 Movie “Stand by Me

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Time was getting away from us. We still had several hours of travel, and one more covered bridge to see that lay en route to the coast, in the City of Drain in Douglas County. The Pass Creek Covered Bridge; the last covered bridge we would see on this particular trip.

Pass Creek Covered Bridge
Pass Creek Covered Bridge—Lane County, Cottage Grove, Oregon
Pass Creek Covered Bridge
Pass Creek Covered Bridge—Lane County, Cottage Grove, Oregon

Pass Creek Covered Bridge is rustic and barn-like, and blends with its surroundings most gracefully. I especially liked its arched entrance showing detailed workmanship. The bridge is sixty-one feet long, and was built in 1925. There is, however, some discrepancy to its real age. According to the South Umpqua Historical Society, the bridge was built in 1906. A woman by the name of Mamie Krewson Mattoon, born in 1894, had recalled seeing the bridge when she was a little girl . . . 

It was an old bridge at the time. Long before Drain had lights, we packed a lantern on dark nights when going through it. I rode through it in a hack drawn by two horses. (From the book “Roofs Over Rivers” by Bill and Nick Cockrell.)

It seems that there was a covered bridge over Pass Creek in the 1870s, and that a new bridge replaced it in 1925.  This is the bridge we see today, but is not the original location. In 1987, the Bridge was moved about 100 yards to its present site along the creek.  

We wanted to cross the bridge, but a fence blocked its entrance. It was unclear why the fence was there. There were homes across the creek, so maybe the bridge is only for residents. Or, perhaps it was unsafe. Whatever the reason, I’m glad we stopped.

➤I will be posting more about Oregon’s covered bridges, so stay tuned!

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Copyright 2015.  All rights reserved.

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