Oregon Covered Bridges
Oregon has one of the largest concentrations of covered bridges in the United States, numbering more than fifty. Lane County in western Oregon has 20+ covered bridges, giving it the distinction of having more covered bridges than any county west of the Mississippi River.
Covered bridges were originally built for practical reasons. The roof and sides kept the wooden decks and trusses from rotting too quickly in the rainy Pacific Northwest. In the late 1800s and early 20th century, steel and concrete were hard to come by. It was common for builders, using hand tools like the adz, broadax, and auger, to cut nearby trees and construct the framework by hand on the riverbank.
Wildcat Covered Bridge
Travelers between Eugene and Florence can see Wildcat Covered Bridge as they drive past on Highway 126, but most won't even know that it's there unless they know where to look. It was built in 1925 as part of the Stagecoach Road. This road was the original route to cross the Coast Range to the seashore before the Ralph A Petersen Tunnel was built in 1958 along Highway 126 to Florence and the Pacific Ocean.
Wildcat Covered Bridge crosses Wildcat Creek where it flows into the Siuslaw River. The 75 foot span has a long narrow opening on the east side to provide a view of oncoming traffic. Traffic is minimal, so it can be a nostalgic experience to park the car and walk across the bridge before returning and then driving through it. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
Drive across the bridge to the other side and you'll see a portable restroom and the Lane County Parks boat ramp. Salmon and steelhead attract fishermen to these waters. A sign reads "Austa" for a nearby unincorporated community about six miles west of Walton. Austa was named for Austa Grace Yingling where she met her husband William John Vaughan, who drove a stage coach along the Siuslaw River.
After enjoying a little time listening to the river and breathing in the fresh forest air, return to Highway 126 and continue to your ultimate destination.
Drive west from Eugene on Highway 126 toward the coast for 33 miles to Siuslaw Road (Whitaker Creek/Clay Creek recreation turnoff). This is 12 miles east of the Oregon 126/36 junction in Mapleton, if approaching from the coast. Turn south, drive a couple hundred feet, then take the underpass north to Austa Road. The bridge is less than a half mile farther.
Want to See More Covered Bridges in Oregon?
Use this interactive covered bridge map to plan your next trip. View pictures and read a little about each of the 54 covered bridges in Oregon in this Oregonian post. This Wikipedia post provides a summary table by county of Oregon's covered bridges.
Rick Obst is an Arizona native who moved to Eugene, Oregon in 2005 and fell in love with the verdant Pacific Northwest. He enjoys photography and discovering the many people, places, and events that make this part of the world so special.
To learn more about Eugene, Lane County, and western Oregon, visit 365 and More Things to do in Lane County, Oregon on Facebook. You'll see hundreds of pictures and links to discover the beauty and attractions of this special area.