A Journey Through Oregon’s Covered Bridges

written by Peter Murphy | photos by Karl Maasdam

If a covered bridge has that romantic, nostalgic quality, then consider Linn County a vintage handmade box full of keepsakes. East of the Interstate 5 corridor from about Scio to east of Brownsville and out into the fertile Willamette Valley, relics continue to stand. Covered bridges—made mostly of Douglas fir—sprinkle U.S. Highways 20 and 226 and over a couple of country, capillary roads. Chipped peeling paint. Red paint. White paint. Daybreak bursts and illuminates their expanse and enclosure of a bittersweet past.

Fifty-one out of 600-some covered bridges still exist from the pioneer days. To date, Oregon holds the record for most covered bridges in the West. In 1987 the state legislature funded the covered bridge preservation to honor and uphold them as part of our state heritage.

Even though thirty-three covered bridges still stand in the Willamette Valley—the most out of any region—we selected eight in the Linn County Covered Bridge Tour. The eight bridges we feature cluster in three general areas: around Scio, southwest of Scio, and south on Highway 20 near Sweet Home. Each grouping offers a beautiful throwback to the architecture of wood beam, Howe truss, arch “X” tie rods and timber triangles.

These bridges form a scenic loop, where you can pack a picnic, enjoy a summer swim and fish all year round.

For the easy northern route—to visit four of the eight bridges—take the driving loop. Cars, motorcycles, and bicycles enjoy the damp emerald green fields of the foothills of the wet west Cascade Range. It’s where the soggy rich bottomland crisscrosses the stream or creek on its way to drain into the Willamette River. Jordan Creek, Thomas Creek (which meanders all along this tour route, hence the need for bridges), Crabtree Creek and others flow along, with many others not far away.

Take U.S. Highway 20 and Route 226 east from Interstate 5 near Albany for about 5 miles. At the intersection with Route 226, turn north on Crabtree Drive and travel to Crabtree. Travel north on Hungry Hill Drive for about a mile past the Century Farm to the Hoffman Bridge.

Nancy and Brian Haas are descendants of a family that settled here in 1852. They say John K. Riley came this way in 1852, settled down, raised crops and livestock, and it’s been like that ever since. They enjoy chatting with visitors who come that way to visit the bridge. “People come here to get a sense of the country … our peace and quiet,” Nancy Haas said.

Back through Crabtree west along Crabtree Road to Gilkey Road north, it’s to the Gilkey Bridge (1939) over Thomas Creek. Gilkey Station used to be a crossroads for farm commerce when the railroad arrived in the late 1880’s. Not much left of Gilkey Station but the Gilkey Bridge remains today.

Follow Gilkey Road east to the middle of Scio, the center pivot for travelers. You can gas up there or have lunch at the Covered Bridge Coffee House, where you can peruse its assortment of covered bridge T-shirts, caps and picnic lunches. If you spend just a few moments touring Scio, keep your eye out for the conductor at the old railroad stop near Chapin Park and the Depot Museum to the west of downtown along Thomas Creek. Alas, no covered bridge in Scio.

Back on the tour east on Route 226, head north on Richardson’s Gap to the Shimanek Bridge. With its red paint and rounded windows it’s Linn County’s newest and longest covered span. Some say the first bridge built at this location was erected in 1861, while the first documented covered bridge was built in 1891 for a cost of $1,150.

Then it’s east out Shimanek Bridge Drive back onto 226, just to the well-signed Hannah Bridge, about 25 yards south of the highway on Camp Morrison Drive. John Joseph Hannah arrived by wagon train here in 1853 and set up a sawmill. e family needed a bridge to cross Thomas Creek. is one has taken up residence after the elements took their toll on others.

It’s not even half an hour back to Albany, where you can quench your thirst with a craft brew at Calapooia Brewing, named for the indigenous people who also roamed this area so many years ago. ere’s a whole host of new and enticing comestibles and activities in Albany these days. How about Pork Belly Fries at Frankie’s or something else as appetizing served by chef Cody Utzman (twice a winner on Food Network’s reality show Chopped)? Or maybe you’d prefer an authentic Hungarian meal at Novak’s in Old Town Albany. Also in the lively historic area you will find rustic dining at Brick and Mortar Café.

Sample the new and old culture in these parts: some of it victual, some of it visual, yet it’s all delectable.

Shimanek Bridge

Length: 130 ft.
Built: 1966
Nearest town: Jordan
Stream: Thomas Creek

Hannah Bridge

U.S. Register of Historic Places
Length: 105 ft.
Built: 1936
Nearest town: Scio
Stream: Thomas Creek

Gilkey Bridge

U.S. Register of Historic Places
Length: 120
Built: 1939
Nearest town: Scio
Stream: Thomas Creek

Larwood Bridge

U.S. Register of Historic Places
Length: 105 ft.
Built: 1939
Stream: Crabtree Creek

Hoffman Bridge

U.S. Register of Historic Places
Length: 90 ft.
Built: 1936
Nearest town: Albany
Stream: Crabtree Creek

Weddle Bridge

Length: 120 ft.
Built: 1937 (originally over Thomas Creek near Scio, relocated here)
Nearest town: Sweet Home
Stream: Ames Creek

South Fork Santiam River (Short) Bridge

U.S. Register of Historic Places
Length: 105 ft.
Built: 1945
Nearest town: Sweet Home
Stream: South Santiam River

Crawfordsville Bridge

U.S. Register of Historic Places
Length: 105 ft.
Built: 1932
Nearest town: Crawfordsville
Stream: Calapooia River

More covered bridge info at

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