The Magruder Bridge is an historic site in Columbia County, Oregon located just outside of Portland.
The bridge as it stands today is nothing noteworthy. It is a simple steel tee beam bridge built on concrete trestle piers that is designed to “look historic”. However, it doesn’t really display any historic character.
What the site is more famous for is the previous Magruder Bridge that was here until it was destroyed by a flood in 2011. This bridge was exceptionally rare for many reasons. First, the bridge was constructed in 1909, which by itself is historic. Secondly, the bridge was a plate girder swing bridge, something that was and still is a rare bridge design worldwide. Most swing bridges are through truss bridges. Thirdly, the bridge was hand-operated, meaning that there was no operator’s house or electrical room. Rather, the bridge was manually swung by bridge officials using large lock-style pins and other mechanisms. The vast majority of these bridges were constructed in the 19th century before electricity was popular worldwide, and almost all of them had either been upgraded or replaced by 1930 or 1940. The Magruder Bridge was a notable exception.
Despite its exceptionally rare bridge designs and as a result its significantly high historic value, the bridge was not maintained properly. In 2002, the United States Coast Guard closed Wood Creek to all shipping traffic indefinitely for fears that the waterway was becoming too shallow and rocky. This was a valid concern, however it resulted in neglect of the historic bridge, which wasn’t valid. Since the waterway was no longer being used for shipping, it appears that state decided that there wasn’t a need to maintain the hand-operated swing bridge anymore, and so they removed the mechanisms and left the bridge in place, closed to all traffic weighing more than 4 tons.
In 2009, the entire bridge was closed to all vehicular and pedestrian traffic due to severe deterioration. The bridge then sat abandoned and unmaintained until 2011, when a large rainstorm caused Wood Creek to flood. When the floodwaters receded, they carried the bridge right off its piers with them. Following this, the town of Woodson investigated to determine if a bridge was really still needed at this location, and they determined that the answer was “yes”. However, they basically took the ultimate shortcut and constructed the modern tee beam bridge seen today on top of the historic substructure piers that remained. The destroyed piers were replaced with concrete trestle piers.
In summary, while the Magruder Bridge as seen today does not have any heritage value, the site of the bridge is still considered a state historical landmark because of the previous bridge that once stood here. While this designation is better than nothing, it would’ve been much better to have seen the historic bridge maintained and preserved properly so that it would not have been destroyed by the 2011 flood.