Thursday, October 09, 2008

Autumn, Tualatin River Bridge

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The ongoing bridge series ventures south once again, this time to a rather obscure location. The bridge you see here carries Highway 99W over the Tualatin River, out in the 'burbs between Tigard & Tualatin. It doesn't appear to have a proper name, as far as I know. It's often called "Tualatin River Bridge" (for example Structurae and Bridgehunter), although that's a bit silly considering how many other bridges there are over the Tualatin. Other sources call it "Highway 99W Bridge", which is also silly since this is far from the only river 99W crosses. It probably doesn't help that when you drive over it, you barely even notice you're on a bridge. The St. Johns it's not, I guess that's what I'm trying to say here.

Autumn, 99W Bridge, Tualatin River

The original reason I thought I'd go check it out was that at least one source indicated it's a Conde McCullough bridge, which is a big deal if you know who he is, otherwise not so much. Ok, so that source is merely a caption on a Flickr photo, but the photo's by a local author who's written a number of bridge books and who runs a well-known Bridge of the Month Quiz. So I imagine the attribution is more than just a wild guess. I mean, I could just go down to the library or the historical society, or possibly check with ODOT, and find out for certain. I really ought to do that, probably. I'll update this post if I ever get around to doing that, but for now I'll just call it a "could be". At minimum, we know it was built by the right agency (the state highway dept.), at the right time (the 1920's). Whoever designed it, it's fair to say it probably doesn't number among their signature works. It's your basic steel truss bridge, nothing too remarkable about it. And the old bridge just carries the southbound lanes of 99W these days. The northbound lanes travel on a concrete bridge of unknown (but much more recent) vintage. Again, nothing terribly remarkable about it.

Autumn, 99W Bridge, Tualatin River

I do like the setting, though. Autumn leaves, a still river, the bridges, the morning light... It was kind of fabulous. I'm almost afraid to go back. I'm sure it wouldn't be the same.

Autumn, 99W Bridge, Tualatin River

It turns out there's a bit of history to relate about this spot. There's been a river crossing at this location since pioneer days. If you've ever driven Taylor's Ferry Road and wondered about the name (while you were waiting at a light or whatever), here's your answer. The ferry was replaced with the first bridge at this location way back in the 1860's (not too surprising, as the Tualatin isn't a very big river). Yet the name of the road has persisted to the present day, although the name's no longer used anywhere near here. All of this comes from "A Bridge over Time", a fun history poster from the City of Tualatin, with a bunch of old photos of the area.

The poster has a photo of something called "Roamer's Rest", a long-vanished river recreation spot once located right around here somewhere. Here's a local newspaper article reminiscing about the place.

Autumn, 99W Bridge, Tualatin River

I didn't actually walk across the bridge this time. I didn't see anywhere I could park and walk across the southbound (i.e. old) side, and it didn't seem really necessary anyway. The spot I took these from is primarily a canoe-launching site on the south bank of the river. When you drive over the bridge, it's not obvious that there's any public river access nearby, as there aren't any signs or obvious turnoffs.

Autumn, 99W Bridge, Tualatin River

Directions, from a page at the Tualatin Riverkeeper site:

99W Bridge & Hazelbrook Rd., Tualatin (RM 11.5 RB)
From 99W turn south onto 124th. Turn east onto Tualatin Road. Turn north onto SW 115th Avenue. Turn left (west) onto Hazelbrook Road. There are four parking spots at the
put-in. No restroom. More parking at Hazelbrook Middle School, two blocks east. This was the historical site of Taylor’s Ferry. Pilings from an old wooden covered bridge
are still in the river here.

If you look at the map above, the tiny parking lot is right at the sharp bend in Hazelbrook Road, and from there there's a short path to a viewpoint & put-in, right between the two bridges.

Autumn, 99W Bridge, Tualatin River

A local newspaper did a piece about this bridge, in the wake of that nasty bridge collapse in Minneapolis: "Highway 99W bridge old but 'in good condition'". So I suppose if you were going to walk across it, or I was going to go back and walk across it, it's at least not going to collapse under you, which I suppose is a relief, unless the idea of collapsing bridges hadn't occurred to you until just now, in which case not so much, and I humbly apologize for bringing it up. Or whatever.

Autumn, 99W Bridge, Tualatin River Autumn, 99W Bridge, Tualatin River


Sheldon Perry said...

Interesting, though I don't understand Taylor's Ferry Road's current routing which is an east-west road. The ferry site is way south of TFR. I suspect that it may have been extended westward and in recent years a new and isolated segment has been built in the Metzger area. When 99W (Pacific Highway) was built south from Portland toward the Tualatin River, they probably did away with the old name even though they were using largely the same alignment.

rob said...

I have always wondered about where the ferry was connected with Taylor's Ferry Road. I started searching and found out I live next to it. Right next to the Avalaon Park apartments on 99W just before you cross the river is a private park connected to the complex. Years ago it was a private Park run by Jonnmy Fredricks.
Anyway if you walk down to the River (this is a private only open to the residents of the Complex) you can see the remains of the bridge (pilings) that crossed the river. (this was a covered Bridge). The Bridge replaced the original Ferry that was built by John Taylor.

rob said...

(continued from earlier post). I wondered how the TFR which terminates in Metzger related to the crossing on 99w. I found the answer in Oregon Geographic Names, (1982 edition, page 720). Under the TFR entry it says "Most of road SW of West Portland in now ncorporated in Capital Hwy and Barber Blvd, leaving the road to be applied to the section between BB and Fulton ..... The long tangent west of CH and BB is of recent construction and has nothing to do with the original Taylor's Ferry Road"