Make no mistake: The St John’s Bridge is a high structure; its navigational clearance is 205 feet, just 15 feet lower than the Golden Gate Bridge & seven feet lower than the George Washington Bridge (to give some context.) So walking across you are well over 200 feet above the Willamette River!
|The view north from the St John's Bridge|
I made my trek out to St John’s on Sunday: a gorgeous day here in Portland—clear blue skies, temperatures holding in the mid to upper 70s, & only a gentle breeze blowing. It’s easy to get to the bridge from the east side—several buses will take you within a few blocks of it, & you’ll find yourself in the delightfully funky St John’s neighborhood. St John’s is far to the north in Portland, & was an independent, incorporated city founded in 1847; St John’s was annexed by Portland in 1915, tho some Portland residents I know claim that St John’s isn’t “really Portland.” I find this an odd assertion, since it is literally untrue, & also since I think St John’s is delightfully funky, & I’m quite happy to think of it as part of the city I live in.
The bridge itself is really majestic. The St John’s Bridge opened in 1931; the construction had started in 1929, just before the Stock Market Crash, & the fact that the bridge made a number of construction jobs available was a big boon at the beginning of the Depression. Per Wikipedia:
At the time of its completion, the bridge had:
- the highest clearance in the nation,
- the longest prefabricated steel cable rope strands,
- the tallest steel frame piers of reinforced concrete,
- the first application of aviation clearance lights to the towers, and
- longest suspension span west of Detroit, Michigan.
The St. John’s Bridge carries the Route 30 bypass from St John’s to the east to Linnton & beyond on the west side. The most striking feature of the bridge would be the Gothic cathedral-like towers, which actually lend their name to the nearby Cathedral Park.
|The Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge, with downtown Portland in the distance to the right|
I have to say that I was very aware of the height of this bridge, especially when crossing the north side, which I did first. Maybe by the time I returned on the south sidewalk I was more inured to the height, but I found that much easier going. The sidewalks are ample, & while there’s some bike traffic on the sidewalks, there is a bike lane provided & many cyclists use this. I should note that there is no barrier between the sidewalk & the vehicle traffic.
My one regret about the outing is that I didn’t head down to Cathedral Park, where I could have gotten some shots of the bridge’s under structure; & also I didn’t get a shot of its span, which I believe I could have down from some vantage point in St John’s. I’d meant to go back there yesterday to remedy these oversights, but life—as is its wont—decided to intrude. You can see a panoramic shot on Wikipedia here.
The Portland bridges are such an amazing component of this wonderful city, & I’m so glad I made a point of walking them all, even if my legs felt a little wobbly a couple of times! As far as ongoing bridge visits are concerned, I’ve made repeat crossings of the Steel Bridge (lower level), the Broadway & the Hawthorne—these are each easy & pleasant walks, & I’m sure I’ll also make use of the Burnside & Morrison Bridges when the opportunity arises. The downtown bridges really are pedestrian friendly & not intimidating. As for the Sellwood, Ross Island & even the glorious St John’s, I suspect my crossings were one time events.
Either next week or the following Wednesday I’ll be starting a new Rose City Wednesday series. Hope to see you then!