Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dry Canyon Creek Bridge

Dry Creek Canyon Bridge, Rowena OR
[View Larger Map]

The Dry Creek Canyon Bridge spans a desert canyon on the Columbia Gorge's Rowena plateau, just southwest of the Nature Conservancy's Tom McCall Preserve. This bridge dates to 1921 and was part of the original Columbia River Highway. It's another of Oregon's many Conde McCullough bridges. He's best known for bridges along US 101 on the Oregon Coast, but as head of the state highway commission's bridge division he was responsible for bridges all over the state. A few have been featured here previously, including the Oregon City Bridge, the John McLoughlin Bridge on the Clackamas River, and the Wilson River Bridge in Tillamook. A couple of others I'm not so sure about: The OR 99W bridge on the Tualatin River, and the Oswego Creek Bridge in Lake Oswego. One problem here is that he was the state's chief bridge designer but not the only one, and other designers tended to work in the same style. A number of Columbia River Highway bridges further west in the Gorge are variations on this style even though they predate McCullough's tenure. So I think "Conde McCullough" is sometimes shorthand for anything done in the early 20th Century Oregon Highway Commission style, regardless of who actually did it. It's simpler that way, and it supports a "lone genius" theory of bridge design that a lot of people seem to find appealing. Supposedly this bridge really is his though, and its setting is a bit more dramatic than most, so if you're collecting the set you really ought to put this one on your list.

I only had this one photo of the bridge on hand, so I thought I'd do something a little different this time and create a Dry Canyon Creek Bridge gallery on Flickr. A gallery is basically a photoset of other people's photos, and there are some rather good ones of the bridge out there. On the above map you might notice a trail leading south from the Rowena viewpoint parking lot, passing close to the head of the canyon the bridge spans. This is probably where the side-facing bridge photos were taken from. It's been years since I've hiked that trail, and the last time was before I was doing this ongoing bridge project, so I unfortunately don't have any photos of my own from that location. Incidentally, I haven't seen any mention of what the canyon itself is called. If the creek is Dry Canyon Creek, it's the creek that flows in Dry Canyon. But if the canyon wasn't already called "Dry Canyon", it's the canyon that Dry Canyon Creek flows in, and thus is "Dry Canyon Creek Canyon". Also, the creek's apparently dry most of the time. Is it still a creek when it's dry? In what sense does it exist if it's dry? And if it's flowing, the canyon isn't dry, therefore the name's an oxymoron.

Anyway, there are some non-Flickr photos out there too. Bryan Dorr has a recent post up about the bridge, and Rick Scheibner historical Oregonian database, a stunning black and white photo of it. And from the library's hist May 1921 photo shows the then-new bridge with a vintage Overland car nearby.

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