As fall approaches, your list of interesting outdoor activities wouldn’t be complete without taking time to tour Linn County’s picturesque covered bridges.
The quaint structures – Linn has eight of them – evoke a simpler time when life moved a little slower and when builders put roofs over their bridges to protect the massive timbers from Oregon’s rainy climate. Carefully maintained, most are still open to both pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
Take the day and bike or drive your way to some of these beautiful structures along quiet country roads. Five of the bridges are clustered not far from Albany around the town of Scio and marked by signs on a 30-mile loop that takes about 2 and a half hours if you are driving. Included on that tour are the Hoffman Bridge, Gilkey Bridge, Shimanek Bridge, Hannah Bridge and Larwood Bridge. After touring the bridges, take time to head into Scio and have a delicious lunch at the Covered Bridge Coffee House Restaurant (or do takeout and picnic at your favorite bridge). Head back to Albany or take the rest of the day and add the other three Linn County bridges: Weddle Bridge in Sweet Home, Short Bridge near Cascadia, and the Crawfordsville Bridge.
On your tour, take note of Shimanek Bridge, the only one in the area painted red rather than the traditional white. And, if you plan ahead and get some takeout from one of Albany’s great eateries, spend the day at the Larwood Wayside picnic area where the Larwood Bridge spans Crabtree Creek next to an old water wheel that once provided electricity to rural residents. Take your fishing poles and try your luck for trout as well. The creek is regularly stocked.
The Larwood Bridge is at the confluence of Roaring River and Crabtree Creek, which also has the quirky reputation of being the only place in the world, according to “Ripley’s Believe it or Not,” where a river flows into a creek.
If you want to discover the bridges for yourself, click here to view a list of Linn County’s Covered Bridge Country. For a map and a little history, click here for a copy of Seems Like Old Times and turn to Page 20, or download the Explore Albany app to get the same information on your phone. And read a description of touring Linn County Covered Bridges from Travel Oregon.
Early pioneers built the first covered bridges in Oregon, which later gave way to better-designed structures beginning in the early 20th Century. Due to a lack of steel during the world wars, and the abundance of Douglas fir, construction of these treasures continued well into the 1950s. Covering the bridges, while a beautiful addition to any span, had a practical application of keeping the wooden trusses dry. A covered bridge can last up to 80 years, while uncovered wooden bridges had about a nine-year lifespan.
As you tour the bridges notice the diagonal bracing and counter bracing of the beams in a crisscross pattern, both on the sides of the bridge and overhead under the roof. This is the Howe truss design, developed in 1840 by William Howe, which helps make the bridges stronger and last longer.
At one time there were about 450 covered bridges in Oregon. Today, just over 50 remain.