The Oregon Coast's Classic Bridges are Works of Art and Engineering
By Erin Bernard
Published: 06/23/2014  Updated: 08/16/2019
Photo by Gary Hayes
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A summer tour of the Oregon Coast Highway's distinctive bridges showcases the handiwork of State Engineer Conde B. McCullough, who believed bridges should be as elegant and enduring as they were economical.

Looking for a historic take on the classic coastal roadtrip? Hit the Oregon Coast Highway and explore a series of celebrated bridges that carve a scenic route from Astoria to Gold Beach, weaving a tall tale of bridge-building's bygone era.

The man behind the grandeur of many of these monuments was Oregon State Bridge Engineer Conde B. McCullough, who designed Depression-era bridges that connected a region broken up by scores of inlets and bolstered the floundering economies of countless coastal towns in the process. Times were tight for federal and state governments, but McCullough – known to friends as "Mac" – insisted that his bridges be aesthetically pleasing as well as affordable. True to this mission, the reinforced-concrete spans he and his team erected along the Oregon Coast Highway in the 1920s and 1930s emphasize a distinctive style that pulled from Classical, Gothic and Art Deco traditions.

Among the earliest of McCullough's Oregon coast bridges, Old Youngs Bay Bridge was built in 1921 to connect the burgeoning hubs of Astoria and Warrenton, and it's still being raised and lowered daily today to grant commercial boats access to the Columbia River. The Art Deco beauty Yaquina Bay Bridge emphasizes the engineer's more playful side and doubles as a fantastic viewpoint for surveying the surrounding landscape. McCullough's greatest Oregon achievement may well be the Conde McCullough Memorial Bridge, a sprawling steel and concrete beast that runs 5,300 feet across Coos Bay and wows crossing motorists with its enchanting series of sky-high arches.

McCullough's marvels were fashioned to flow seamlessly across the surrounding landscape and equipped to withstand the ravages of time in a damp climate. Most still stand today, and still ably shepherd travelers up and down the Oregon coast. Cross these bridges when you come to them – and bear witness to a golden age of Oregon engineering.
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The Oregon Coast's Classic Bridges are Works of Art and Engineering