Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sherars Bridge

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Here's a slideshow from Sherars Bridge, which carries OR 216 over the Deschutes River just downstream from Sherars Falls. The falls are a traditional Native American fishing site, so it's possible there has been a bridge at this spot for an exceedingly long time. An 1826 expedition by Peter Skene Ogden, chief trader for the Hudson's Bay Company, reported that there was an Indian village here at that time, along with a narrow bridge over the river. Traditional fishing involves building wooden platforms that project out over the river, and the river is quite narrow at the site of the current bridge, so I imagine building a bridge would have only involved a small extension of existing technology

The current bridge is named for Joseph Sherar, who bought an existing (circa 1860) bridge at this spot and built a hotel here. Sherar replaced the bridge with a sturdier wooden toll bridge some time in the 1870s or 1880s. A 1998 Oregon Historical Quarterly article about the Yale Scientific Expedition of 1871 includes an undated vintage photo of the wooden bridge, adjacent wooden buildings, and Sherar's rather swanky hotel building.

The bridge was replaced again in 1922 when the automobile rendered the previous bridge obsolete. This time the state highway department built a simple deck truss bridge, with the design credited to Conde McCullough, the state's famous chief bridge engineer. That bridge was in turn replaced with the current bridge circa 1979 or so. Unlike the previous no-frills utilitarian bridges, the current award-winning bridge is decorated with local tribal designs.

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