Bridal Veil Falls Bridge
Spanning Bridal Veil Creek, along with three lumber-carrying flumes and a dam owned by the Bridal Veil Lumbering Company, near the town of Bridal Veil, Multnomah County, Oregon, on the Historic Columbia River Highway, beginning at milepost 28.4.
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Date of Construction
K. P. Biliner, designing engineer, Oregon State Highway Department
Pacific Bridge Company, Portland
Oregon Department of Transportation
Vehicular and pedestrian traffic
Site constraints forced Multnomah County and the Oregon State Highway Commission to select a skewed reinforced-concrete deck girder span for this location. The span’s angled bents and its tall and thick parapet walls, which function as elastic beams, make it an atypical structure on the Historic Columbia River Highway.
Bridal Veil Falls Bridge
Multnomah County built the Bridal Veil Falls Bridge, slightly over a mile east of Shepperds Dell Bridge, in 1914 as part of the first phase of construction on the Columbia River Highway east from Portland. It was one of several structures built to span streams in the “waterfalls section” of the road between Latourell and Horsetail Falls. Bridal Veil Falls, immediately downstream from the bridge, were named for their resemblance to the veil of some giant’s bride, according to one newspaper account. It is unknown when this cataract received its name. Lewis A. McArthur, author of Oregon Geographic Names wrote that “The romantically inclined never fail to name at least one important waterfall in a state Bridal Veil.” The creek that forms this falls begins on nearby Larch Mountain. Bridal Veil Falls and nearby picnic areas and lodgings have been popular recreation sites since the HCRH’s construction.
The town of Bridal Veil dated from the early 1880s when the Bridal Veil Lumbering Company established a planing mill there. Rough lumber for the mill was cut at the logging camp of Palmer, on Larch Mountain, high above the Columbia. Flumes with water supplied by Bridal Veil Falls Creek carried the rough-cut lumber from Palmer to Bridal Veil where it was finished as flooring and other products and then shipped out on the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation main line. In 1914, the HCRH pushed through the Bridal Veil area, crossing Bridal Veil Falls Creek and three lumber company flumes directly above the falls. The road changed the local community’s character by ending its dependence on rail and river traffic. The flumes were last used in 1936 shortly before the Kraft Cheese Company purchased the planing mill and used it to manufacture cheese boxes. During the Second World War, the workers at Bridal Veil constructed ammunition boxes. Since the late 1950s, the mill has changed hands several times and has had a variety of functions.
A few early residences in the Bridal Veil area remain. One, the Bridal Veil Inn, a frame two-story rectangular building with a log-beamed ceiling, has continually provided lodgings, first for mill workers in the 1910s and later for travellers on the HCRH. Other homes were constructed as a consequence of the HCRH running through the area. These include Forrest Hall, a large 2% story Colonial Revival frame house with a front portico, which dates from the time of the HCRH’s construction. For years its owners served Southern-style dinners to travelers on the highway. Another was the Jacobson Estate, at the nearby Coopey Falls. Designed by well-known Portland architect Morris H. Whitehouse in 1916 as a “Italian Villa,” its rock-walled gardens and creek were built by the same Italian masons who created the masonry walls on the HCRH.
Design and Description
In bridging Bridal Veil Creek, Billner encountered several problems that determined the type of structure that he designed. In addition to spanning the creek itself he was required to create a bridge that also crossed a dam and three flumes. The bridge site could not be changed because large mill yards occupied all available space between the waterfalls and the OWRN tracks. In addition, topography east of the creek prevented a realignment of this section of the HCRH. Further, the lumber company stipulated in its granting of right of way that the flumes would not be modified to accommodate the bridge. Billner needed to consider these constraints in designing the bridge, as well as other general concerns about building bridges on the HCRH. In 1914 he wrote that the overriding factors in designing bridges for the road were “safety and low cost.” In addition, Billner wrote that “there has been a constant aim toward the artistic, and an effort to reach a state of harmony with the surroundings. This latter consideration made the adoption of a standard type impossible.”
The Bridal Veil Falls Bridge is a skewed 110′ reinforced concrete deck girder span in which the guard fences serve as continuous beams. The transverse deck support members on this structure function as deck girders. Width out-to-out is 23′-2″, curb-to curb is 21′-0″. Each pair of diamond-shaped 24′ main piers is connected by a continuous footing resting on rock. They were offset to accommodate the northeasterly flow of the creek and maintain a 6-foot-high clear channel for the lumber flumes. In addition, while the main span appears to measure 60′, in reality it consists of three spans measuring 15′-0″, 30′-0″, and 15′-0″. In order to maintain minimum flume clearances, Billner had to design two sets of intermediate piers that broke away 30° from the vertical and connected near the bases of the main piers (a third set for a 15′ approach span was done the same way). They appear to the casual observer as simply diagonal bracing. Finally, according to Billner, he designed the 20″-thick parapet walls running the length of the bridge to carry loads to the columns, calculating them as “elastic beams resting on many supports. ”
Reinforcing consisted of 3/8″ to 2 3/4″ square steel bars. Twenty-inch deck beams were placed 10′-0″ on center throughout the west approach and main spans and at 7′-6″ in the west approach span. Finally, the elevation sides of the parapet walls have seven bushhammered inset panels. The walls are continuous because of their function as elastic beams, so this detail was purely for decoration.
The Pacific Construction Company built this bridge in 1914 at a cost of $5,095.28 It was one of several that this contractor constructed along the waterfalls section of the HCRH. The others included the West and East Multnomah Falls viaducts, and the Multnomah Falls Footbridge. The Bridal Veil Falls Bridge was constructed without mishap except for a settling of falsework that caused one of the girders to deflect. Nevertheless, K. P. Billner was confident that he could conceal this noticeable irregularity in the structure’s construction and that it would in no way compromise its load carrying abilities.
Repair and Maintenance
Maintenance files for the Bridal Veil Falls Bridge no longer exist and recent inspection reports were unavailable. It has been in continuous service on the HCRH since completion in 1914.
Excerpted from Historic American Engineering Record, Bridal Veil Falls Bridge, HAER OR-36-E.
Historian: Robert W, Hadlow, Ph.D., September 1995
Transmitted by Lisa Pfueller, September 1996