First bridge over the Willamette River at Salem Oregon, 1886
Salem Public Library
License: Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)
View this photo at photos.salemhistory.net
BH Photo #279272
You'll find a lot of erroneous references stating that the Morrison Street bridge in Portland, Oregon was the first bridge built across the Willamette River in Oregon, most of which can be traced to Scott's History of the Oregon Country which was based mostly on Harvey W. Scott's acerbic editorials published in the Oregonian newspapers between the 1870s-1890s rather than actual facts. The order in which the Willamette River was bridged was this: The O & C railroad bridge at Harrisburg was the first. The Oregon Pacific Railroad bridge at Albany was the second bridge constructed across the Willamette. This bridge at Salem was the third, and was the first street bridge across the river. The Morrison street bridge at Portland was only the fourth bridge across the river, not the first, and only beat out the street bridge at Oregon City by three days.
This bridge collapsed during the flood of 1890 and it was discovered that it had been improperly built. The bridge builders, in an effort to save on construction costs, hadn't sunk the center pier down to bedrock. It was just sitting there on the mud, so when the flood waters rose and debris hit the pier, it was swept away and the bridge collapsed.