TOKETEE — As Deer Creek flows between the rocks underneath, hikers can now safely make their way from Toketee Lake to Umpqua Hot Springs thanks to a new bridge.
With an 85-foot-long steel truss span and two 20-foot-long approach spans of glue-laminated slabs, the bridge replaces one that had washed out in winter 2011. The new bridge perches 5 feet higher than its predecessor.
The Deer Creek bridge was meant to be the last link to completely connect all parts of the 79-mile North Umpqua Trail, but the wildfires in the Umpqua National Forest this summer destroyed several other bridges.
On Oct. 2, a helicopter from Columbia Helicopter carried materials over the North Umpqua River in six loads to the site so the Washington-based firm Ridge2River Construction could start building. By Oct. 6, the bridge was ready to support the heavy amount of hiking boots and mountain bike tires that visit the trail each year.
Holly Waddell of Glide hiked from the Umpqua Hot Springs trailhead to the bridge Monday to take in the October sunlight shining through the red and gold leaves of the forest.
“What they put in was massive and they had to do a lot of work to get it in there,” Waddell said of the bridge. “It looks like it’s tall enough to not be taken out with storms and high water. It looks very robust.”
The $250,000 project was funded through an Oregon Parks and Recreation Trails program grant and the U.S Forest Service.
Julie Merritt, forest bridge engineer for the Umpqua National Forest, said she expects the bridge to last for the current hikers’ great grandchildren to cross.
“It’s a nice, short segment and very popular,” Merritt said of the Umpqua Hot Springs Segment of the North Umpqua Trail where the bridge was built. “It’s a pretty big creek, but prior to the bridge being installed people would ford it during the low water months. it was too dangerous to ford it during high water flows.”
For more information about the Umpqua National Forest, visit www.fs.usda.gov/umpqua.