10 votes

Deception Pass Bridge


Looking West

One of the most photographed bridges in the Pacific Northwest.

Photo from Wikipedia

BH Photo #130798


Street View 


From Wikipedia

The Deception Pass Bridge is a two-lane bridge connecting Whidbey Island to Fidalgo Island in the U.S. state of Washington. It was a Public Works Administration project built by young workers from the Civilian Conservation Corps. Completion of the bridge allowed the United States Navy to build Naval Air Station Whidbey Island and helped Oak Harbor, Washington flourish. The bridge is a commonly-photographed landmark of the Puget Sound region.

In the spring of 1792, Joseph Whidbey, master of HMS Discovery and Captain Vancouver's chief navigator, sailed through the narrow passage that is now called Deception Pass and proved that it was not really a small bay as charted by the Spaniards (hence the name "Deception"), but a deep and turbulent channel that connects the Strait of Juan de Fuca with the Saratoga Passage, which separates the mainland from what they believed was a peninsula (actually Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island).

In the early years of the 20th century, travelers of the horse-and-buggy era used an unscheduled ferry to cross from Fidalgo Island to Whidbey Island. To call the ferry, they banged a saw with a mallet and then sat back to wait.

The bridge, one of the scenic wonders of the Pacific Northwest, is actually two spans, one over Canoe Pass to the north, and another over Deception Pass to the south. Construction began in August 1934, and the completed bridge was dedicated at noon on July 31, 1935. The Wallace Bridge and Structural Co. of Seattle, Washington provided 460 tons of steel for the 511-foot Canoe Pass arch and 1130 tons for the 976-foot Deception Pass span. The cost of construction was $482,000.

In 1982, the bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

It cost more to paint the spans in 1983 than it did to build them in 1935. They were painted again in 1997.

Bridge Facts
Height from water to roadway: about 180 feet, depending on the tide
Roadway: two 11 foot lanes, one in each direction
Sidewalks: 3 foot sidewalk on each side
Width of bridge deck: 28 feet
Total length: 1487 feet (more than a quarter mile)
Canoe Pass: one 350-ft arch and three concrete T-beam approach spans
Deception Pass: two 175-ft cantilever spans, one 200-ft suspended span, and four concrete T-beam approach spans
Vehicle crossings: 20,000 per day, average
Maximum speed of current in Deception Pass at flood/ebb tide: 9 kts
Maximum speed of current in Canoe Pass at flood/ebb tide: 10 kts


Deck truss bridge over Deception Pass on WA 20
Island County, Washington
Open to traffic
Built 1935
- O.R. Elwell (Bridge Engineer)
- Puget Construction Co. (Contractor)
- Wallace Bridge & Structural Steel Co. of Seattle, Washington (Steel Fabricator)
Cantilevered Warren deck truss
Length of largest span: 549.9 ft.
Total length: 976.1 ft.
Deck width: 22.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+48.40722, -122.64444   (decimal degrees)
48°24'26" N, 122°38'40" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
10/526313/5361623 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Deception Pass
Average daily traffic (as of 2012)
Inventory number
BH 34249 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of March 2017)
Overall condition: Fair
Superstructure condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 49 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • December 12, 2020: New photos from Jann Mayer
  • June 23, 2020: New photos from Patrick Gurwell
  • September 2, 2019: New photo from John Bernhisel
  • May 28, 2018: New photo from John Bernhisel
  • December 23, 2016: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Added category "Cantilevered"
  • March 4, 2014: New photos from Larry Dooley
  • March 18, 2012: New Street View added by Craig Philpott
  • February 22, 2009: New photo from Quinn Phelan
  • December 22, 2008: Essay added by Quinn Phelan


  • Quinn Phelan - qphelan [at] earthlink [dot] net
  • HAER WA-103 - Deception Pass Bridge
  • Mike Goff - michael [dot] goff [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • Wikipedia - Deception Pass Bridge
  • Craig Philpott - craigphilpott63 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Larry Dooley
  • John Bernhisel - Johnmbernhisel [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Patrick Gurwell - pgurwell [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Jann Mayer - jannmayer [at] gmail [dot] com


Deception Pass Bridge
Posted September 24, 2014, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

I suppose Deception Pass (and Canoe Pass) would be scary if you don't like heights (although many bridges in the Pacific Northwest would qualify for this) or if you don't like being close to heavy traffic as these are busy bridges... at least they were during my recent visit. Otherwise, I don't see why they are scary.

I agree wholeheartedly with the comments the article makes about the Brooklyn Bridge. The people using that bridge set a new standard for rude... I am sorry people, but when I am photographing the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge I want to be dead-center, not off-center in the pedestrian lanes. Although considering my trips to New York City also include police harassment during legal bridge photography and cars speeding up (flooring it actually) when they see pedestrians crossing a street, maybe this general hatred of other humans is just New York City.

The other one I agree strongly with is the Pulaski Skyway. A truly incredible historic bridge, and I wouldn't advocate altering its unaltered historically accurate layout, but the bridge's early use of onramps are the most dangerous and scary bits of road I have ever used. Not only do the ramps have zero acceleration lanes, you absolutely cannot see if cars are coming as you look back and try to see over the railing. So you basically pray and floor it... and usually get someone honking their horn at you because you basically pulled out in front of them by mistake.

The article fails to mention that modern bridges are scary because they visually look like flimsy slabs of concrete and their shoddy construction only adds to the concern.

Deception Pass Bridge
Posted September 23, 2014, by K. A. Erickson

A contributor at Yahoo! Travel has listed this bridge as one of "The Most Terrifying Bridges in the USA" among others.


Anyone agree/disagree with the selection or the list?