“my friend, the ghost is through, his power ends.” One of my Halloween family traditions has been to watch Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow as narrated by Bing Cosby. I grew up watching this, shared my love of it with my daughters, and now my grandchildren are enjoying this yearly tradition. Because of this I have always had a fascination with covered bridges. Imagine my delight when I discovered that Oregon is home to more covered bridges than any other state. And most are right here within an easy afternoon drive!
Of the original 500+ bridges around 51 are still standing today. The bridges were built between 1890 to the 1950s. According to the Covered Bridge Society:
Rugged pioneers armed with only hand tools, sweat and ambition began building covered bridges in Oregon during the mid-1850's. They often camped out at remote sites, living off the land or contracting with local farmers for food. Early covered bridge owners often financed construction by charging tolls: 3 cents for a sheep, 5 cents for a horse and rider.
In the early 20th century, the state provided standard bridge designs to each county, most of these structures incorporated the Howe truss. The abundance of Douglas Fir and the shortage of steel during the world wars continued construction of covered spans well into the 1950's.
A wooden bridge was covered to keep the huge truss timbers dry. A covered bridge could last 80 years or more, while an uncovered span would deteriorate in about nine years. In Oregon, legislation was established in 1987 to help fund preservation of these rich links to our past and heritage.
With the help of this map that gives a driving tour of six bridges we set out.
Bridge number four was Larwood, it also had an old water powered sawmill nearby that had fallen into disrepair.
What a perfect way to spend the day! The bridges are such an amazing piece of history. They are still in use today, standing strong and beautiful. But to me they were more than merely a means to cross a river, they excited my imagination. At every turn I expected to see the Headless Horseman come thundering out of the woods, his sword lifted high, looking for another head to chop!
For more information about the bridges go to: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/hwy/bridge/Pages/covered_bridges.aspx
"Man, I'm getting outta here"