Break the monotony with the Covered Bridge Tour of Lane County, Oregon! The I-5 freeway between Portland and just south of Eugene Oregon can be a very daunting drive - boring even - some would say. A great distraction from the long drive, whether heading north or south, is Cottage Grove and the beautiful and historic covered bridges of the area.
Located just 21 miles south of Eugene, Cottage Grove is the epitome of small town America, an escape from the city life, if even just for a day. As you drive into town you are greeted by the iconic "Main Street America" image. Stop by City Hall or any of the local businesses for a brochure on the "Covered Bridge Tour of Lane County.”
The Covered Bridge Tour is a do-it yourself tour, accessible by either vehicle or bicycle. The tour runs for 20 miles. Plant yourself in the middle of town, directly across from City Hall, to begin your adventure with the Centennial Bridge.
Centennial Bridge – built in 1987, 100 years from the founding of the city - stands 14 feet tall, 10 feet wide and 84 feet long. Park your car along the street and take a walk through the laid out path memorializing US history. Stop at the Veterans Memorial with an American flag flying proudly above, before stepping aboard the wood planks lining the floor of the white pedestrian only bridge. When the bridge was built, they encompassed a time capsule, holding various items from the 1980’s, into the entrance.
Take a short drive, one half mile to be exact, down the road to find the Swinging Bridge. This bridge was built mostly for children to cross over the Coast Fork of the Willamette River while heading to school. Take a walk onto the bridge, listen to the gentle flow of the river as it rushes across the rocks below. Depending on the time of year you will see green, red, orange or yellow leaves dancing in the wind longing for the water below, possibly even snow. From here drive a few blocks south, to the third bridge on the tour, Chambers Covered Bridge.
Chambers Covered Bridge–the last covered railroad bridge in Oregon, built in 1936–covers 78 feet in length and is a testament to the olden days of railroad traffic. As you walk onto the bridge, you see railroad tracks embedded into the floor. With its towering roof and powerful smell of fresh wood, it's easy to imagine the sound of the whistle blowing as the train thundered through the tunnel carrying timber to and from the logging camps.
Next on the agenda is Stewart Bridge, built in 1930 it was used until 1980 when it was replaced by a concrete bridge. Park just up the road and venture gingerly to the creek bed below. Stick your foot into the stream, feel the cold water rush through your toes. Look out at the tree branches bending to let the leaves scoop up water like a hand cupping to catch a few drops of the life saving liquid.
Finally you visit a bridge you can actually drive through - Mosby Creek Bridge, named for the pioneer David Mosby. Built in 1920, Mosby Creek Bridge is still in service today. Beware, the lane is one vehicle traffic through here. Also known as the "Layng Bridge", is the oldest covered bridge in Lane County and was placed on the Historical Societies national register in 1979. Another claim to fame for the bridge is the nearby attraction, the orange railroad bridge from the beginning scene of the 1985 movie "Stand By Me".
Moving onward, you'll come upon Currin Bridge – named for an early pioneer family in the area – is also known as the Row River Bridge, due to the river it crosses. The original Bridge was built in 1883 and replaced in 1925. Currin Bridge is the only colored covered bridge in Lane County, with its red sides and white picket fence out front, it resembles an old barn sitting along the roadside.
Time for the last bridge on the tour – Dorena Bridge. Another drive-through bridge, but only for driving to the parking lot at the other end. Accessible to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, park and take a walk into the bridge to gaze out at the dense forests surrounding you. Enjoy the beauty all around before worming your way through the forests back to the busyness of the freeway. Driving through the dense forests turning into pastureland, reflect on the peace and quiet that is the country life. Keep that in your heart and mind as you trudge along in traffic on the arduous journey back to the big city, now ready to tackle the work days ahead with a renewed spirit.