To introduce this photoessay, an establishing shot taken from the Burnside Bridge – the Steel Bridge superimposed on the Broadway Bridge and the Fremont Bridge.
A little background: I first visited Portland in 2014 and wrote about it in several blog posts and in the “Portland’s Bridges” photo essay. While i was there, i discovered that on one morning every year, all of Portland’s bridges, including the two Interstates, are closed to vehicular traffic and open only to bicyclists for what they call the “Bridge Pedal”. How could i resist making another expedition? Especially since before i finished assembling the “Portland’s Bridges” photo essay, i realized that i did not have decent photos of several of the bridges and really needed to make another expedition.
In 2015, the Bridge Pedal was scheduled for 9 August, so i made reservations at the University Place Hotel nearly a year ahead since every hotel in central Portland is booked up for the Bridge Pedal weekend months in advance.
And then mission creep set in, and i decided i’d also try to get photos of the bridges between Springfield and Portland.
Thursday, 6 August
I set out from San Francisco in the morning and ground my way to Springfield/Eugene by the late afternoon. Near the river in Eugene i found a motel from which i could make a photo foray on the Segway.
Luckily, the motel was just a couple hundred yards from the David and Lynn Frohnmayer Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge, which was built to carry a steam pipe, with the bike lane thrown in as an afterthought. Sure looks like it. I could find no vantage from which to photograph this bridge, but i promise you, you ain’t missing nothing.
The next bridge i spotted was the Knickerbocker Bicycle Bridge, built to carry a water main and only marginally less ugly than the Frohnmayer, but here’s what it looks like from its best side:
Next, the first handsome bridge, the Wilhamut Passage Bridge. And yes, Oregon is experiencing a drought as bad as California’s, so the water levels are low all the way through Portland.
Here it is from the Knickerbocker Bridge.
The next bridges upstream are the two spans called the Springfield Bridge, the north one being such a boring concrete slab that i didn’t even hunt for a vantage that might make it look good, but the south span is more interesting.
The final Springfield bridge, the first bridge over the Willamette, is the old Southern Pacific Railroad Bridge, built in 1891 and still used by Amtrak. It’s often hard to find a good vantage from which to photograph railroad bridges, and this was no exception. What i should have done was ride out onto the south span of the Springfield Bridge in the expectation of being able to get a good shot of it from there, but by the time i got to it, i was exhausted. Anyhow, here it is.
Friday, 7 August
First thing in the morning i set out north on the bike path down the Willamette, and after less than half a mile came to the Peter DeFazio Bicycle Bridge and a lovely thing she is.
And a closeup.
And into the mouth.
And finally, from the west bank.
Only 800 feet downstream, the Ferry Street Bridge.
And from a leafy vantage on the west bank.
A mile to the north is the Washington-Jefferson Street Bridge.
Looks better from underneath.
My final Eugene bridge, the Greenway Bicycle Bridge.
And then difficulties arose. Well, not immediately. To replace my good camera that i’d left at home, i stopped at the Costco in northern Eugene and picked up a Nikon Coolpix L840 with 38x optical zoom YOW! a worthy addition to my camera arsenal with a superzoom capability i’d long been wanting.
I then drove north and veered west off I5 to Harrisburg to capture the OR 99E Bridge, only to spend quite a while driving around without finding a vantage from which i could take the bridge with the sun on it. So this is all you get.
And then i set out to Junction City to find the two old railroad bridges a tenth of a mile apart, both former drawbridges now fixed in the closed position, one swing-span and the other vertical lift. Alas, after way too much driving around, i couldn’t find either.
After i returned home, i went online studying various maps and discovered that the reason i couldn’t find either bridge was that both of the closest roads to them were nearly a mile away cross country on private land, so these bridges are effectively impossible to photograph except from a boat or the air although you can look at them on Google Earth.
Then i pushed on to Oregon City, where i managed to get a pic of the handsome Oregon City Bridge.
And a closeup.
A leafy detail shot from the other end.
Then on to Portland, where i checked into the University Place Hotel and treated myself to dinner at Baan Thai, my favorite Portland restaurant. Hell, i love that place so much it’s almost my only Portland restaurant.
Saturday, 8 August
I set out this morning on my first Portland bridge foray, starting with the Fremont Bridge. Here’s a shot from the west end.
Well, upon reflection.
The Master Plan here was to ride along the waterfront to a point much closer to the bridge to get pics from that angle. Unfortunately, for the plan at least, i fell into conversation with a local bicyclist while we were waiting for a long freight train to slowly cross our intersection, and since i found him delightful and he was headed to the official Bridge Pedal packet distribution area over near OMSI on the east bank to pick up his stuff, i fell in with him. Well, he was my age and could no longer ride fast, so i could keep up with him on the Segway while we got to know each other. Turned out, he had moved here from Monterey only a couple of years ago. The down side of riding along with him was not being able to stop to take pics.
However, once we parted after i realized that i didn’t have my receipt with me, i was free to dawdle and on the way back home managed to get a few shots from the east bank of the river. First, Tilikum Crossing.
And then, the Marquam Bridge.
And finally, the Hawthorne Bridge.
After my mid-day nap, i set out again. First, the Steel Bridge from the west bank.
Then, looking back south, the Morrison Bridge.
A closeup of the Steel Bridge.
Here’s the bike lane on the lower level of the Steel Bridge. Hiya, kiddo!
And finally, a shot from the east bank.
Now, moving south, the Marquam Bridge, and yes, that is a submarine on the bank, the USS Blueback.
And since i’m passing by, another shot of Tilikum Crossing, this time from the north side of the east bank of the river.
I couldn’t resist this shot of the underbelly.
Tilikum Crossing, from the south side of the east bank of the Willamette.
As i was headed south toward the Ross Island Bridge, i went under the approach to the Marquam Bridge and discovered this, its only decorative aspect.
Looking south at the Ross Island Bridge.
And a closeup.
Two more Tilikum Crossing shots, now from the south. The first from the east bank.
And now from the Ross Island Bridge.
Back home via Baan Thai for a great pad Thai.
Sunday, 9 August
Today’s the day of the Bridge Pedal and my papers are in order.
The official starting time is 8:30, but i wanted to get to the starting line early and set out at 7:30. When i hit the Nieto Parkway just four blocks down from the hotel, there already many bicycles headed north, so i just fell in with them.
What starting line? We were just directed with no fanfare onto the Hawthorne Bridge, and i was so enraptured over participating in this event that i didn’t think about taking pics until we were across the bridge and approaching the Tilikum Crossing, where there was a bit of a jam because the central lanes of the bridge were designed for light rail vehicles, so bicyclists were restricted to the bike lanes.
But the delay was very brief, and then we were on the bridge.
On the way across, great views of the Marquam Bridge.
All the routes for the Bridge Pedal involve riding over the Tilikum Crossing on the north side from the east end and then doing a u-turn at the west end and returning on the south side. Here’s the Ross Island Bridge to the south.
On the way back up over the Tilikum Crossing.
And back down the Tilikum Crossing.
And then farther south and across the Ross Island Bridge, from the top of which i got this shot of the Tilikum Crossing.
And then back north to the Marquam Bridge, at the top of which there was a rest stop where you were offered cups of water and chocolate chip cookies. I accepted both.
At the top of the Marquam Bridge, you get a good view of the bridges to the north – the Hawthorne Bridge, a bit behind it and to the right, the Morrison Bridge, a bit behind that and farther to the right, the Steel Bridge, and then barely visible back to the left, the arch of the Fremont Bridge.
Now, racing down the west side of the Marquam Bridge.
And then, up to the Burnside Bridge and over it.
Then on north to the Broadway Bridge, the west end wrapped for painting.
And now, the push north to the final bridge, the Fremont Bridge. Just beyond the point depicted below was another rest stop offering water, cookies, and fresh fruit. The banana was delicious.
And up we go.
At the top for a rest stop.
And some revelry.
Great views. To the south, the Broadway and Steel Bridges.
And then, complications ensued. Throughout the Bridge Pedal i’d been just going with the flow of bicyclists, but somehow as i descended the Fremont Bridge i missed the point at which we puny Seven Bridge riders were shunted off counterintuitively to the right, leaving the Nine Bridgers and Eleven Bridgers to forge forward to the St. Johns Bridge.
As the scenery became less and less urban, i began to suspect that i’d missed my cutoff and was on the way to the St. John’s Bridge. Acute range anxiety set in, and i calculated that while it was clear i’d be able to get to the St. Johns Bridge, whether i could make it all the way back to the hotel was doubtful.
So i bailed, consulted a detail map, and confirmed that i was going the wrong direction. But i couldn’t just reverse course, as i’d be headed into the teeth of thousands of bicyclists pouring off the Fremont Bridge and peddling furiously for the St. Johns Bridge. So i plotted an alternate route toward the waterfront on little side streets, and sure enough, after only a mile or so reached the foot of the Fremont Bridge.
And a closeup.
Almost immediately found the Seven Bridge riders.
And shortly thereafter reached the Finish line.
On the way home got a shot of a different sort of bridge.
Also of the Morrison Bridge.
And the Hawthorne Bridge.
Whew. Time to charge batteries, mine and the Segway’s.
And then off for an afternoon excursion. Tilikum Crossing was open this morning only to bicyclists registered in the Bridge Pedal. While the official opening will not be until this fall, it will be open for several hours this afternoon to everyone on foot or bicycle, and i plan to put it to use. Here is a superb article with breathtaking aerial photographs taken this very afternoon. If you look very very closely, you might spot me on my Segway.
See, it still rankles that i did not get a decent shot of the Sellwood Bridge last year, and taking the Tilikum Crossing is by far the shortest and most scenic route to get to the east end of the Sellwood. So that’s what i did. Note the cooperation here with the pedestrians on the right and the bicyclists on the left, not that that stripe doesn’t provide a hint.
OK, one detail shot.
Turns out there was a fringe benefit in taking the eastern bike path down to the Sellwood Bridge – by far the best vantage i’ve found for the Ross Island Bridge.
And yes, it’s not a bridge, but i found this warehouseboat very interesting.
As was the aquatic life.
Finally, our afternoon destination, the Sellwood Bridge.
And a closeup. This bridge is undergoing a major reconstruction.
A little fringe benefit on the way back from the Sellwood Bridge along the western bank of the river, wild blackberries, upon which i stopped and gobbled until i was sufficiently stained and scratched.
Next stop, the Portland Aerial Tram, where thanks to that 38x zoom i got a good shot into the mouth of the upper station.
And a shot of the tower and a car.
That park in front of the tramway? I’ve had too many delightful encounters with locals to detail, but one of the finest was with a couple of young mothers and their little girls who were out to enjoy this park. All of ’em tried the Segway, but the champ was the smallest girl, who i’d feared would not weigh enough to ride the Segway. Silly me. The little thing was utterly fearless and by throwing her full weight into it, rode the Segway with frightening (to me and her mother) aggression, maxing out the speed and cranking the turns to the fullest.
But back to the tram for a closeup.
And the lower station.
And since we’re taking a break from the bridges, here’s that magnificent gantry beside the tram station. I got to see it moving last year. Oh, and The Gantry is a new food court pod.
A last shot of the Tilikum Crossing.
No supper at Baan Thai tonight. They’re closed on Sundays. Instead, i had about a third of the worst gyros i ever ate from a little street stand on 6th Street. OK, didn’t eat.
Off in the morning to get better shots of some of the bridges. Here’s the back side of the Morrison Bridge because that’s where the sun was.
On the west bank between the Morrison and Burnside bridges is what remains of the USS Portland – the mast.
Now, the Burnside Bridge.
And the other side.
Next, the Steel Bridge with a train crossing on the lower level and a light rail streetcar on the upper level.
And a closeup.
Now up onto it, using the bicycle lane on the upper deck.
What’s the upper level without a shot of the machinery?
And the operator’s cabin.
Other side, from the east end.
Into the mouth of the lower deck.
OK, enough of the Steel Bridge. This is a good place for a brief break from the bridges for an observation about Portland. I’d mentioned in blog posts both this year and last my supposition that trash cans cause trash because San Francisco is awash in trash and yet has a trash can at almost every corner in business/tourist areas, while you have to hunt almost as hard in Portland for a piece of trash on the street as you do for a trash can in which to put your empty paper cup.
A corollary observation is that you have to hunt to find homeless people in Portland. Well, maybe they’re hiding them somewhere away from the river and downtown, but i saw very few. What’s more, the ones i saw didn’t look as, well, homeless as ours. I spotted only two enclaves, this one near the foot of the Steel Bridge.
And this one near the Morrison Bridge.
Leaving intractable social problems behind us, tra-la, here’s the Broadway Bridge as seen from the Steel Bridge.
A closeup of the bascules and their mechanism with the Fremont Bridge aligned behind.
Once you come off the west end of the Steel Bridge, you get a good view of the Union Station.
And then you approach the Broadway Bridge, wrapped for painting.
And then onto the bridge. Here’s a detail shot of the mechanism.
The operator’s cabin.
An arty shot of the Fremont Bridge.
Broadway Bridge from the east bank.
The Steel Bridge from the east bank.
The Steel Bridge, framed.
Burnside Bridge tender towers.
Burnside Bridge from the east bank.
Just for a break, here’s the Portland, a sternwheel steamboat tug now a maritime museum and docked on the west bank of the Willamette but still in working order and winning races less than ten years ago.
The Morrison Bridge with sunny tender towers.
An end shot of the Hawthorne Bridge from the east bank.
Back home to rest and then out for an early dinner at Baan Thai, the Larb Chicken. Next stop, the Portland Spirit jet boat for a river cruise. When i was making my reservation and asked for the tallest boat so as to maximize the number of drawbridges that would have to be opened, i was crushed to learn that the river was so low this year that none of the drawbridges would have to be opened, so i opted for the tour with the maximum bridge count. For this, they used the little jet boat below.
First, we headed south. The Marquam Bridge from the water.
An underappreciated aspect of the Marquam Bridge.
An end shot.
The underside…of both the bridge and the captain.
The Ross Island Bridge.
At this point, we turned back north. Here’s the USS Blueback, moored on the east bank.
The Morrison Bridge.
A Burnside Bridge tender tower.
The Steel Bridge.
The Steel Bridge again.
The Broadway Bridge.
Broadway Bridge again.
The Fremont Bridge.
The Fremont Bridge again.
We’re clipping along at 40 knots here, the fastest i’ve ever been in a boat, and in no time at all we reached the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge 5.1, which i lucked into photographing with the bascule open in 2014.
Next, the St. Johns Bridge.
From the other side, the east tower.
The west tower.
And finally, the whole thing.
Bridge break here for a photo of a crane.
Yes, we know i like cranes, too, but why in the world, you ask, am i giving you a photo of this one since it’s not particularly impressive? Let’s zoom in for the reason.
That’s an osprey nest sitting atop the pulley. Well, see, a young osprey couple were looking around for the perfect place to raise their children and spotted that pulley. So they built there. And since the crane was not in daily use, the operators didn’t see the nest until it was complete. Of course they destroyed it.
And the ospreys immediately rebuilt it. And the operators destroyed it again. The obstinate ospreys rebuilt, but by this time local osprey lovers had seen what was going on and, ospreys enjoying protected status, the huggers got an injunction. Which led to a court case, the upshot of which was that the ospreys had to be left alone until they departed of their own accord.
Well, OK, thought the owners, we’ll just keep an eye on it until the ospreys have moved on and then reassert our use of our crane.
But it takes patience to outwait an osprey, as that was nine years ago.
OK, that’s it. The expedition is complete. It was a marvelous adventure, and i hope you enjoyed seeing this record of it.
I do have to add that one of the things that made this expedition so enjoyable was falling into conversation with one delightful Portlander after another. We agreed that one thing San Franciscans and Portlanders have in common is that we really enjoy being nice to tourists even though we often don’t treat our own locals all that well.
Although idle praise would just go to my head, i earnestly solicit your comments on this essay, most especially if you can call an error to my attention so i can correct it. You can make comments below or you can click on Contact at the foot of the main menu to send me an email.