All Six Bridges, But Who’s Counting?

What is it about a lists that makes me feel compelled to conquer them all? I have never considered myself a “stamp collector,” and always prided myself in pursuing only those places that interest me, rather than filling pages in a passport. But give me a finite list, and I have to complete it, lest I feel short changed.

I must not be the only one, as these lists are what Adventure/Outdoor magazines are made up of these days. If you want someone to read your article, put a number in it. Try reading anything travel related these days that doesn’t contain a “Ten Best,” from the ten most secluded beaches, to the Thousand Places to See Before You Die. We seem to engage more in adventures or experiences when there is a number associated with them. It’s a marketing ploy to which I have fallen victim to in my own pursuits in visiting the 58 parks with “National Park” status, as well as crossing off all 50 states. Good thing I am not a mountaineer. 😉

So when I read that Cottage Grove, a small town just 20 miles south of Eugene offered a bike route highlighting “The Six Covered Bridges of Cottage Grove,” I was hooked. The brochure promised, “You will find yourself feeling the emotions of decades of the town’s residents. Romantic and nostalgic, beautiful, pastoral, and quaint.”    I’m in.

Lane County has more covered bridges than any other county west of the Mississippi. They date back from 1920 to the most recent Centennial Bridge, which was built in 1997 using recycled timber from two demolished bridges. It was built by the citizens of Cottage Grove to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their town.

Centennial Bridge, built 1987 to commemorate Cottage Grove's 100th.

Centennial Bridge, built 1997 to commemorate Cottage Grove’s 100th.

Centennial Bridge was constructed from recycled timber from other bridges.

Centennial Bridge was constructed from recycled timber from other bridges.


The largest of these bridges is the Chambers Bridge, built tall to accommodate steam engines. It’s the last remaining railroad bridge west of the Mississippi, the last train having passed through it in 1951. It most collapsed in disrepair before restoration was begun in 2010.

Chambers Bridge, built 1925, restored in 2011.

Chambers Bridge, built 1925, restored in 2011.

Last remaining covered railroad bridge west of the Mississippi.

Last remaining covered railroad bridge west of the Mississippi.


I was surprised to learn that such a small town as Cottage Grove also had a 37 mile bike path, most of it a rail trail! After all, it had not shown up on my “Ten Best Rail Trails” list! 😉

Known as the “Covered Bridge Scenic Byway,” the paved, level path runs right through town.  I stop at the Visitor’s Center to see if I can find a map, but they are closed so I ask a local man for directions. He tells me, “Park at the Safeway, the trail runs right behind it!” The trail continues on out of town and meets up with the Row River Trail, the “rail trail” section, then continues along the shoreline of Dorena Lake. It can either be ridden out and back, traffic-free for a total of 34 miles, or around the lake for 37 miles if one is comfortable on highway bike paths.

Paved bike path follows old Oregon railway

Paved bike path follows old Oregon Pacific & Eastern railway

Mosby Creek Bridge, built 1920, the only "drive thru" is closed until Sept.

Mosby Creek Bridge, built 1920, the only “drive thru” is closed until Sept.

IMG_0714When I read that it is possible to see all six of the bridges by bike, well, it’s something I have to do. What I didn’t realize is that the sixth bridge is a good 20 miles away, and I don’t have that much time, especially at my speed!  As anyone has figured out by now, I suffer from “Anthony-itus” in that I always seem to get a late start.  No wonder Joni Mitchell’s “I’m always runnin’ behind the time….just like this train” runs through my mind on a continuous loop.

Currin Bridge, built 1925.  Trying my best at postcard competition.  ;-)

Currin Bridge, built 1925. Doing my best to keep up with the Postcard Man. 😉

IMG_0726But having driven into Eugene from Newport that morning, and then another half hour to Cottage Grove, I only have enough time to complete one list or the other. Faced with the choice – see the six covered bridges or ride the bike path, I decide why not do both?!  I will see as many bridges as I can cover by bike until the sun begins to set, then finish the tour in the Tracker.

Stewart Bridge, built 1930.

Stewart Bridge, built 1930.

IMG_0758This doesn’t exactly work out as I had planned, as the only road linking the bridges is closed until September for bridge repair. Unfortunately, the Mosby Creek Bridge is also the only bridge in Cottage Grove that you can drive a car through on an actual roadway. However, with most of the planks now missing, I can’t even drive a bike through! So I am forced to backtrack.

Dorena Bridge, built 1949

Dorena Bridge, built 1949

IMG_0766IMG_0775Having seen half the bridges by bike, I concede to ride back into town and finish my Bridges Tour in the Tracker. This makes for a beautiful evening drive around the Dorena Lake. However, seeing that beautiful, near level paved bike path running right alongside the entire shoreline of the lake is almost enough to make me push a moonlight ride!  If only there was a little more moonlight…

Moonlight over Dorena Lake Boat Ramp.  Oh so tempting!

Moonlight over Dorena Lake Boat Ramp. Too late for a twilight paddle?

Twilight from the bike path bridge.

Twilight from the bike path bridge.

“I’m always runnin’
Behind the time
Just like this train
Shakin’ into town
With the brakes complaining…

I used to count lovers like railroad cars
I counted them on my side
Lately I don’t count on nothing
I just let things slide”

~Joni Mitchell (Just Like This Train)

12 thoughts on “All Six Bridges, But Who’s Counting?

  1. I love covered bridges, too, and it seems you hit the jack pot. What a thrill to see them let alone go through them. You have something to look forward to! Your pictures are beautiful!

  2. I liked your bridge photos but especially like the looks of that bike trail. I’ll put it on our “list”.
    Actually we don’t care about things like that. In fact if we never get to all 50 states that will be fine. Maybe we are drinking too much Bend beer!

  3. Now that is a list I would and could do, except for the 20 mile part. Methinks that you should add to your main to do list, ‘write a guide to the best sites to see in Oregon’ :)) Love the photos.

  4. You could always get an electric bike, like Tioga George….Yup I know, no room..
    Such nice photos as usual….

  5. Bridges fascinate me and I love going over them. We have just been to Holland and they have some very interesting bridges there over the canals etc. But we dont have covered bridges here in the UK, or at least I have never seen one. Such is my fascination with bridges that I once took the book “Bridges of Madison County” out of the library………only to be very disappointed!!!

  6. Hobopals — Thanks for the nice compliment. Yes, they were lots of fun. These are quite a novelty to me. They would have blown away where I grew up in Texas. 😉

    Carolyn — Thanks…hope your foot is better?

    Nina — I owe you about a hundred ideas. You have given me yet another one…dinner last night at Columbia Cafe. YUM!!

    Kim — Thanks! Hope to see you soon…

    Judie — Thanks for the link. I love the little side walkway for the pedestrians!

    Gayle — That trail, though gorgeous, would be a snoozer for you two. I still wish you would go do that 26 mile McKenzie River Trail, since I can’t!!

    Contessa — Thanks, mi amiga! I am having lots of fun here in this great state!

    Lisa — Yes, very doable and very scenic. It was not too hilly either. Wish I had more time there!

    UpriverDavid — I like my biking like I like my sailing…motor free! Besides, I need the exercise.

    Dave — The Bridges of Madison County comment had me laughing out loud! Pretty sappy book for a bridge enthusiast! haha!! I love Holland, though I only had a few days there. I want to go back and visit the tulip fields one day…

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