Friday, December 8, 2006

Drift Creek Covered Bridge

Drift Creek Covered Bridge

Lincoln City, OR. – Covered bridges have always been of historical and photographic interest in Oregon. One of Oregon’s oldest, the Drift Creek Covered Bridge was originally constructed in 1914 on Drift Creek just south and east of Lincoln City, Oregon. Like many wooden bridges, it was covered to extend its usable life past 9 years to about 80 years, the cover keeping the huge truss timbers dry and subject to far less rapid deterioration.

In 1987 the Oregon Legislature established a fund to help preserve Oregon’s covered bridges, but the Drift Creek Bridge was not blessed by the benefits of the fund. In 1997, the Lincoln County Commissioners determined that the bridge’s dangerous deteriorated condition required condemnation and demolition.

It was then that Laura Sweitz and her husband, Kerry, believing that “Life is filled with possibilities,” a motto which now hangs from the bridge, asked for a chance to save it. The Sweitzes offered to salvage what timber could be saved and reconstruct the bridge on their own land on Bear Creek Road in Rose Lodge, just east of Lincoln City. The County Commissioners accepted, and the arduous process of sifting the good wood from the rotted and infested wood began. They harvested replacement wood from their own land using traditional methods, including hand-cutting the shakes for the roof.

Although the lack of funds and volunteer labor frequently delayed the project and disheartened the Sweitzes, in late 1999, the bridge appeared on the cover of a nationwide calendar, and the Oregon Heritage Commission included the bridge project in its “Heritage Needs Assessment.” The calendar gave their hearts a lift and the donation of the mammoth main cord logs by the local Simpson Timber Company furthered their resolve to rebuild the bridge and preserve it for the citizens of and visitors to Oregon.

By July 14, 2001, when the bridge was finally re-dedicated, it gracefully spanned Bear Creek just twelve miles from its original home. More than half the reconstructed bridge is created from original materials, including much of its early graffiti memorializing marriage proposals, love, and the first fish caught. The cornerstone was donated by Taft Masonic Lodge #200.

The Sweitzes gave the bridge and the land upon which it rests to Lincoln County and embraced with open arms the opportunity to share it with visitors 365 days a year. It now stands as a memorial to its pioneer builders, from both this century and last, and a unique and serene place for visitors to enjoy.

And Visitors are welcome 365 days per year. For all they have given, the Sweitzes, who live only a few yards from the bridge, ask in return only that visitors respect their privacy and their need for quiet. To get there, travel east of Lincoln City, OR, on Highway 18. Approximately 3.5 miles east of the Otis Café turn south on North Bear Creek Road. Proceed about one mile. The Bridge is on the left.