Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Burnside Bridge

Happy Wednesday, friends! Things are a bit behind schedule today in no small part due to computer wonkiness yesterday evening. Fortunately, the wonkiness seems to have abated, at least for the time being, so I have the opportunity to once again take you folks on a short Portland tour in words & pictures.

Old Town, W Broadway & 3rd

Last Saturday was a glorious day: the trees were blooming, the sparrows singing in the hedges, & the weather that day was a sunny 70 degrees. Given the favorable conditions, I thought it was an ideal day for another Bridgetown excursion, & I caught the #4 line bus on N. Mississippi Ave with a plan to head for the Hawthorne Bridge—but at a certain point along the way I changed plans & got off at the SW Pine stop, just one block from W Burnside, & headed for the Burnside Bridge, which crosses the Willamette on Portland's central street.

Another reality of Old Town
One small Corner of the Old Town Market, Taken from the approach to the bridge

I did a bit of photo exploring in the “Old Town” section of Portland before heading for the bridge itself—enough to warrant a separate post, for sure. The characteristics in a nutshell: beautiful old buildings, & lots of destitute & homeless people mixed in with tourists & folks headed to the gigantic Old Town Saturday farmer’s market—cognitive dissonance on a sunny afternoon.

Southwest Portland & the Morrison Bridge
Southeast Portland

It was breezy on the bridge—micro-climates in effect here—like “hold onto your hat” breezy. & the bridge had lots of pedestrian traffic—much more than I encountered on either the Steel Bridge or the Broadway Bridge. Fortunately, the sidewalk is ample, tho it should be noted that this is literally a sidewalk: there’s no railing separating pedestrians from the busy auto traffic.

There was this intriguing object in a little park at NE Couch & MLK

This was the first time I began a bridge walk heading into the east side, & I didn’t find too much that warranted exploring in the immediate environs once I got across the bridge. Burnside does cross both Martin Luther King Blvd & Grand Ave here, so heading either north or south on those major streets one might find some fun things. But after a few blocks up Burnside itself, I decided to double back & make the return crossing.

Stairway down to the Eastbank Esplanade
One notable thing that the Burnside Bridge connects to is the Eastbank Esplanade, a walking & biking path that connects the Steel Bridge to the Hawthorne Bridge (see pic above & below); this will most certainly be part of a future excursion!  I also forgot to check this out, but there’s a skateboard park under the bridge at the east end—which accounts for all the skateboard traffic on the bridge!

A section of the Eastbank Esplanade with the Steel Bridge (et al.) to the north
The Burnside Bridge is another bascule type drawbridge (like the Broadway Bridge & others in Portland.) Tho there was a 19th century bridge in this same location, the current bridge was constructed in 1926. Its most notable architectural features are the twin “Italian Renaissance” towers for the bridge operator—apparently these days the bridge is usually lifted by the Hawthorne Bridge operator, but as you can see, it was staffed on Saturday—as I understand it, Burnside Bridge does have an operator during high water periods, & we had a record-breaking rainfall in March.

One of the iconic Burnside Bridge towers
Speaking of iconic: you get great shots of the Portland Sign (AKA White Stag sign) & the Old Twon Water Tower from the Burnside Bridge
Trimet bus lines use the bridge, but there is no train or streetcar traffic. As opposed to the Steel & Broadway Bridges, bikes share the street with auto traffic as opposed to sharing the walkway with pedestrians. There what seemed to me an ample bike lane however, & there was a good amount of bike traffic—Portland prides itself on being a very bike-friendly city!

Waterfront Park from the western end of the Burnside Bridge

I ended my outing with a walk along the west side’s waterfront park—teeming with folks on such a pleasant day. It’s truly a lovely space—the cherry trees were frothy with blossoms!

See you back in Portland—virtually speaking—next Wednesday!


  1. I love these guided tours, John. Thanks for letting me tag along.

    1. Hi Martin: Thanks so much! Glad to have you along.

  2. I'm not a big fan of cities, as a rule, but Portland looks like a place I would actually enjoy! By the way, who is/was "Fritz"?

    1. Hi Kat: It's a very livable city, while also being big enough to offer many amenities; I like it a lot. Since the building dates to 1913, I assume Fritz "was," but sadly, I couldn't find any information. It is on the National Historic Register--otherwise there doesn't seem to be any immediately available info.


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