Bridges of Multnomah County

A stitched panorama of the Hawthorne Bridge in...
A stitched panorama of the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland, Oregon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t written very much about localized paganism lately, mostly because I’ve been distracted and antisocial. When I spend less time out of the house, I spend less time appreciating the land, the rivers and the cities. That’s a shame, though, because I love the place where I live, and I want to get back in the habit of appreciating it.

I was thinking about the personalities of the rivers I’ve met up here, and it occurred to me that I’ve gotten a feel for the personalities of the bridges as well. There are quite a few bridges up here, and I haven’t gotten to know all of them, but I’ve got a few impressions.The bridge I’ve spent the most time on is the Glenn L Jackson Memorial Bridge, which I used to cross frequently on my way to and from work. It’s a rather sensible bridge with a romantic streak, as it seems to enjoy the idea of itself being a river of light at night in contrast to the river it crosses.

The other major bridge over the Columbia is the I-5 bridge, which is more likely to be a little congested. It’s got an interesting personality, perhaps because half of it is considerably older than the other span – it’s a bit like a pair of conjoined twins. When the lifting portion of the bridge goes up to let river traffic through, there’s a palpable feeling of excitement like being a small child whose realized everything stops when he does something.

The Burnside Bridge is pretty much the iconic Portland bridge – it’s more decorative than any of the other bridges, offers shelter to the Portland Saturday Market on the west side and a skate park on the east side, and is also home to the iconic Portland Oregon sign. It’s the hipsterest of all the bridges, and I say that with love, I promise.

Hawthorne Bridge feels more hippy than the Burnside Bridge, a little more down to earth, and very welcoming of pedestrians and bicyclists in particular.

The Morrison Bridge is hard to get a feel for because it’s currently under construction. (You can only cross it in one direction! I’d imagine that’d make any bridge feel off-kilter.) It’s a bit of a showy personality, though, especially because of the special colored lights it displays.

Marquam Bridge is graceful in a concrete sort of way and busy. I haven’t really been able to get a feeling for it beyond that yet

Sellwood Bridge is down near Oaks Park, and I’ve only crossed it a handful of times, but it seems to enjoy the crowds in view at Sellwood Park and on the river. It’s a tired bridge and badly in need of repair.

Steel Bridge is the bridge the MAX uses to cross the Willamette River, so I’ve ridden on it a number of times. I tend to be anxious when on this bridge because of that, so it took me a longer time to get a sense of the personality of this bridge. Steel Bridge is actually very serious-minded, probably because it plays such a distinctive role in Portland transportation.

There’s several other traffic bridges that I’ve only been over once or twice and a few I haven’t been on at all, including the railway bridge over the Columbia.

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