Lewis and Clark's Columbia River
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Lewis & Clark's Columbia River - "200 Years Later"
"Interstate 5 Bridge"
Includes ... Interstate 5 Bridge ... "Vancouver-Portland Bridge" ... "Columbia River Interstate Bridge" ... Vancouver ... Hayden Island ... National Register of Historic Places ... The Golden Age of Postcards ...
Image, 2007, Vancouver, Washington, and the Interstate-5 Bridge, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Vancouver, Washington, and the Interstate 5 Bridge. View from Hayden Island. Image taken May 28, 2007.


Interstate 5 Bridge ...
The Interstate 5 Bridge spans the Columbia River between Vancouver, Washington, and Hayden Island, Oregon, at Columbia River Mile (RM) 106.5. Upstream is located Fort Vancouver and "Jolie Prairie", the prairie where Lewis and Clark spent the night of March 30, 1806. Downstream is Vancouver Landing, downtown Vancouver, and the Burlington Northern Sante Fe Railroad Bridge.

Shared Bridges ...
Construction of the first "Columbia River Interstate Bridge" was a joint venture between the states of Washington and Oregon.

"The original 1917 bridge represented an enormous financial and engineering accomplishment, shared by Washington and Oregon. It was designed by the renowned engineering firm of Waddell & Harrington, leaders in the field of vertical lift bridge design in the twentieth century. The 1958 bridge was built as a twin structure to the original. The piers of this bridge were assembled from hollow precast segments. The Northbound segment has been listed in the NRHP." [Washington State Department of Transportation website, "Historic Bridges", 2015]

Image, 2014, Interstate-5 Bridge, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Interstate 5 Bridge, Vancouver, Washington, to Portland, Oregon. View from Vancouver Landing, located downstream of the bridge. Image taken April 30, 2014.
Image, 2004, Interstate 5 Bridge, click to enlarge
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Interstate 5 Bridge. Image taken March 29, 2004.
Image, 2015, Interstate 5 Bridge, click to enlarge
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Interstate 5 Bridge and Vancouver, Washington. View from Hayden Island, Portland, Oregon. Image taken January 24, 2015.


Brief History ...
Construction of the first "Columbia River Interstate Bridge" began in 1915 and was completed in 1917.

"There was a growing awareness of a definite need for an interstate bridge. The ferry crossing the Columbia River, operated by the Portland Railway Light and Power Company was steadily increasing its business. In 1915 it averaged over 300 vehicles per day and this figure increased by 6 percent the next year. On one summer Sunday over 700 vehicles were ferried across, a crowd which created a long line and prolonged delay." [Freece, D.W., Masters Thesis, 1984, "A history of the street railway systems of Vancouver, Washington, 1889-1926", Portland State University.]

The first Interstate 5 Bridge has a total of 13 Parker-truss style steel spans, with three measuring 275 feet in length and the remaining ten measuring 265 feet in length.

"The bridge over the Columbia River consists of a series of through riveted truss spans with curved top chords; three spans 275 ft. long and ten spans 265 ft. long, together with a small deck girder span at the Vancouvr end, making a total length of 3,531 ft. 5 7/8 ins. between end shoes. Provision for navigation on the river is made by a vertical lift span. The central of three 275 ft. spans is arranaged to lift between towers on the other two, so as to afford a channel 250 ft. wide at right angles to the current of the river and 150 ft. high above ordinary high water." [Harrington and Howard, 1918, The Columbia River Interstate Bridge, Final Report.]

On December 30, 1916, the Interstate Bridge was open to foot traffic due to bad weather and ice on the Columbia preventing the ferry from running.

"1000 CROSS BRIDGE / Ice Blocks Ferry and Interstate Span is Used. / Funeral Cortege Passes / Draw Span Is Lowered for Few Hours in Emergency, and Scores Go to or From Vancouver for Novelty, Despite Cold Wind." [Sunday Oregonian, December 31, 1916]

On January 24, 1917, a streetcar made a trial run over the new bridge between Vancouver and Portland. Opening ceremonies were on February 14, 1917, and the bridge opened for the public use on February 15th. Streetcars had regular schedules between Vancouver and Portland, and continued until 1940 when asphalt was poured over the tracks.

Between 1917 and 1929 a toll of 5 cents per car was levied.

The original bridge is today's northbound lanes.

Construction of the second span (today's southbound lanes) began in 1956 and opened in 1958. The new span was given a rise to allow more boats to pass beneath, to cut back on drawbridge openings. When the new span opened the old span closed for refurbishing and it too was given a rise.

A toll once again was put on the bridge in 1960 (20 cents for cars and light trucks) to help pay for the construction of the southbound lanes and the improvement of the northbound lanes. This toll was removed in 1967.

The entire bridge length is 3,550 feet, with a main span length of 531 feet.

In 1982, the "Vancouver-Portland Bridge" was listed on the National Register of Historic Places (Structure #82004205).


Crossing the Bridge ...

Image, 2006, Interstate-5 Bridge, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Interstate 5 Bridge heading north to Vancouver, Washington. View from Oregon heading north to Washington State. Today's northbound lanes are the original bridge built as a wagon crossing in 1917. Image taken September 24, 2006.
Image, 2006, Interstate 5 Bridge heading north, click to enlarge
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Interstate 5 Bridge crossing the Columbia River. View from Oregon heading north to Washington State. Today's northbound lanes are the original bridge built as a wagon crossing in 1917. Image taken September 24, 2006.
Image, 2006, Interstate 5 Bridge heading north, click to enlarge
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Drawbridge, Interstate 5 Bridge crossing the Columbia River. View from Oregon heading north to Washington State. Today's northbound lanes are the original bridge built as a wagon crossing in 1917. Image taken September 24, 2006.


The Lift ...
According to the "Columbian.com" website (2006):
" ... The bridge's twin lift spans are hoisted by electric motors with a capacity of about 50,000 pounds per span. That is far less than the spans weigh, of course, so the lifting process relies on concrete counterweights weighing 300 tons each. The counterweights hang on cables that run over sheaves, or pulleys, at the top of the north and sound ends of the 190-foot-tall lift spans. Atop the counterweights can be seen stacks of two sizes of concrete blocks, weighing 2,000 pounds and 100 pounds. As the traffic wears away the road surface, the blocks are removed from the counterweights to compensate, thereby keeping the lift span's balance weight within the capability of the lift motors. ..."

Image, 2011, Interstate-5 Bridge, Vancouver, Washington, click to enlarge
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Bridge lift, Interstate 5 Bridge, Vancouver, Washington. View from Vancouver Landing, located downstream of the bridge. Image taken July 2, 2011.


Early Images ...

Image from Harrington and Howard, 1918, click to enlarge
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Columbia River Interstate Bridge, from Harrington and Howard, 1918. Source:   J.L. Harrington and E.E. Howard, 1918, The Columbia River Interstate Bridge, Final Report.
Caption: "THE COLUMBIA RIVER INTERSTATE BRIDGE. As seen from the downstream side, Vancouver end, looking toward Portland. Ordingary stage of water."


Image from Harrington and Howard, 1918, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
"Manufacturing the Steel", Columbia River Interstate Bridge, from Harrington and Howard, 1918. Source:   J.L. Harrington and E.E. Howard, 1918, The Columbia River Interstate Bridge, Final Report.
Caption: "MANUFACTURING THE STEEL. View taken at Gary, Ill. All of the trusses were assembled at the shop, as shown lying on the ground here, all the holes for field rivets reamed, and the different members match marked so they could be erected in Vancouver in just the same positions. This insured perfect matching of holes for the field rivets."


Image from Harrington and Howard, 1918, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
"Erecting the Superstructure Metalwork", Columbia River Interstate Bridge, from Harrington and Howard, 1918. Source:   J.L. Harrington and E.E. Howard, 1918, The Columbia River Interstate Bridge, Final Report.
Caption: "ERECTING THE SUPERSTRUCTURE METALWORK. The spans were erected back on shore, to the left, and as each was completed and riveted it was rolled out over the water on the ways. The steel storage yard, the yard tracks, the launching ways and five nearly completed spans are seen."


Image from Harrington and Howard, 1918, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
"Erecting the Superstructure Metalwork", Columbia River Interstate Bridge, from Harrington and Howard, 1918. Source:   J.L. Harrington and E.E. Howard, 1918, The Columbia River Interstate Bridge, Final Report.
Caption: "ERECTING THE SUPERSTRUCTURE METALWORK. Transporting one of the spans from the launching ways on shore to its piers by floating. The span is 275 ft. long and wighs 500 tons. Its lowest part is about 35 ft. above the water. Four barges and two steamboats, besides tugs, were used for moving."


Image from Harrington and Howard, 1918, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Columbia River Interstate Bridge, from Harrington and Howard, 1918. Source:   J.L. Harrington and E.E. Howard, 1918, The Columbia River Interstate Bridge, Final Report.
Caption: "THE COLUMBIA RIVER BRIDGE. Parade of band and U.S. troops, crossing the Columbia river, opening the bridge to public travel."


Tolls ...
The Columbia River Interstate Bridge had two periods of tolls. The original toll began in 1917 and was removed in 1929. Then, with construction of the second bridge (today's southbound lanes) tolls were once again put on the bridge. These lasted from 1960 until removed in 1967.


TOLLS

Effective February 1, 1917, your Commission issued schedule of tolls as follows:

Single Trip Persons

  1. Pedestrians, each (one person) ... 5 cents
  2. One person on bicycle (including bicycle) ... 5 cents
  3. Two persons on one bicycle (including bicycle) ... 10 cents
  4. ...

Live Stock and Animals

  1. One animal driven, led or ridden, of cattle, goats, hogs, horses,mules and sheep ... 5 cents
  2. For drove of animals inluding cattle, goats, hogs, horses, mules and sheep on foot, ten head and under, each ... 5 cents
  3. For each head, over ten head, in one lot ... 2 cents

Self-Propelled Vehicles

  1. Motorcycles ... 5 cents
  2. Passenger vehicles having seats for two persons (one-seat runabouts) ... 10 cents
  3. Passenger vehicles having seats for not more than eight persons ... 15 cents
  4. Passenger vehicles and cars having seats for more than eight persons ... 25 cents
  5. ...

Vehicles Drawn By Animals
  1. One vehicle drawn by one animal ... 10 cents
  2. One vehicle drawn by two animals ... 15 cents
  3. One vehicle drawn by three animals ... 25 cents
  4. One vehicle drawn by four animals ... 35 cents
  5. One vehicle drawn by six animals ... 50 cents
  6. Each additional vehicle in tow ... 10 cents
  7. Each additional animal ... 5 cents



Source:    John Lyle Harrington and Ernest E. Howard, Consulting Engineers, 1918, Final Report, The Columbia River Interstate Bridge, Vancouver, Washington to Portland, Oregon.


Views ...

Image, 2003, Interstate 5 Bridge and fog, click to enlarge
Click image to enlarge
Interstate 5 Bridge. The Interstate 5 Bridge is visible in the fog, looking downstream from "Columbia Shores Blvd." condominiums, just west of Ryan Point. Lewis and Clark camped the night of March 30, 1806, at this location, looking downstream towards what would be the location of the Interstate 5 Bridge. Image taken January 20, 2004.
Image, 2005, at Vancouver Landing, click to enlarge
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View at Vancouver Landing. Image taken July 3, 2005.
Image, 2004, Interstate 5 Bridge and the cruise ship 'Empress of the North', click to enlarge
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Interstate 5 Bridge and the paddlewheel cruise ship "Empress of the North". View from Hayden Island, Oregon. Image taken March 29, 2004.


"The Golden Age of Postcards" ...

The early 1900s was the "Golden Age of Postcards", with the "Penny Postcard" being a popular way to send greetings to family and friends. Today the Penny Postcard has become a snapshot of history.

Penny Postcard, Interstate 5 Bridge, ca.1920
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Penny Postcard: Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River, ca.1920. Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "Interstate Highway Bridge over Columbia River, Between Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington.". Published by Wesley Andrews, Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #543. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Interstate 5 Bridge, ca.1920
Click image to enlarge
Penny Postcard: Interstate 5 Bridge, ca.1920. Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "'Pacific Highway Interstate Bridge', Spanning Columbia River, Portland, Ore., to Vancouver, Wash.". Caption on back reads: "New Interstate Bridge. This new Interstate Bridge, spanning the Columbia River, connecting Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, Washington, is now being constructed. The very latest type of bridges, which is the greatest of bridge engineering at this time, is one of the interesting features of the New Pacific Highway.". Published by Lipschuetz & Katz, Portland, Oregon. Card #194. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.
Penny Postcard, Interstate 5 Bridge and the Portland-Vancouver Ferry, ca.1920
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Penny Postcard: Interstate 5 Bridge and the Portland-Vancouver Ferry, ca.1920. Penny Postcard, ca.1920, "Interstate Bridge, between Vancouver, Wash., and Portland, Ore.". Caption on back reads: "Interstate Bridge, between Vancouver, Wash., and Portland, Ore. -- This bridge was erected during 1917 at a cost of $1,500,000. Previous to the erection of same, the traffic was taken care of by the ferry shown in the picture.". Published by The Oregon News Co., Portland, Oregon. Card #8241. In the private collection of Lyn Topinka.


From the Journals of Lewis and Clark ...

Clark, November 4, 1805 ...
A cloudy cool morning wind from the West we Set out at 1/2 past 8 oClock [from their camp on the north side of Government Island, approximately across from Fisher's Landing], one man Shannon Set out early to walk on the Island [Government Island] to kill Something, he joined us at the lower point with a Buck. This island is 6 miles long and near 3 miles wide thinly timbered     (Tide rose last night 18 inches perpndicular at Camp) near the lower point of this diamond Island [Government Island] is The head of a large Island Seperated from a Small one by a narrow chanel [Lewis and Clark show two large islands on their maps, both in today's Government Island area], and both Situated nearest the Lard Side, those Islands [even today the Government Island reach is a complex of many islands] as also the bottoms are thickly Covered with Pine &c. river wide, Country low on both Sides; [since 1983 the Interstate 205 bridge crosses Government Island connecting Oregon to Washington]     on the Main Lard Shore a Short distance below the last Island we landed at a village of 25 Houses: [near Portland International Airport]; ...     This village contains about 200 men of the Skil-loot nation ...

at 7 miles below this village passed the upper point of a large Island [Hayden Island] nearest the Lard Side, a Small Prarie [Jolie Prairie, today the location of Fort Vancouver and Pearson Airpark. Lewis and Clark camp on this prairie on their return] in which there is a pond [one of the many ponds which use to dot this area] opposit on the Stard. here I landed and walked on Shore, about 3 miles a fine open Prarie for about 1 mile, back of which the countrey rises gradually and wood land comencies Such as white oake, pine of different kinds, wild crabs with the taste and flavour of the common crab and Several Species of undergroth of which I am not acquainted, a few Cottonwood trees & the Ash of this countrey grow Scattered on the river bank, ...     joined Capt. Lewis at a place he had landed with the party for Diner. ...

dureing the time we were at dinner those fellows Stold my pipe Tomahawk which They were Smoking with [Tomahawk pipe, thus giving rise to the name Tomahawk Island] ...    we proceeded on

[The men have passed through the area which, 20 years later, Dr. John McLoughlin would choose for a trading post of the Hudson's Bay Company, later to become Fort Vancouver and eventually the city of Vancouver, Washington.]

met a large & a Small Canoe from below, with 12 men the large Canoe was ornimented with Images carved in wood the figures of <man &> a Bear in front & a man in Stern, Painted & fixed verry netely on the <bow & Stern> of the Canoe, rising to near the hight of a man [Lewis and Clark then named Hayden Island "Image Canoe Island"]     two Indians verry finely Dressed & with hats on was in this canoe passed the lower point of the Island [Hayden Island] which is nine miles in length haveing passed 2 Islands on the Stard Side of this large Island [the location of Vancouver Landing and since 1917 the Interstate 5 Bridge connecting Oregon to Washington State], three Small Islands at its lower point [The downstream end of Hayden Island was at one time composed of small islands. One of these, Pearcy Island, would become today's Kelley Point.]. the Indians make Signs that a village is Situated back of those Islands on the Lard. Side and I believe that a Chanel is Still on the Lrd. Side [it wasn't until Lewis and Clark's return trip they would discover the mouth of the Willamette River] as a Canoe passed in between the Small Islands, and made Signs that way, probably to traffick with Some of the nativs liveing on another Chanel, at 3 miles lower [Sauvie Island is located at this stretch, but it is not until the return that Lewis and Clark recognize it as a separate island], and 12 Leagues below quick Sand river [Sandy River] passed a village of four large houses on The Lard. Side [on Sauvie Island], near which we had a full view of Mt. Helien [Mount St. Helens, Washington] which is perhaps the highest pinical in America from their base it bears N. 25 E about 90 miles- This is the mountain I Saw from the Muscle Shell rapid [Umatilla Rapids, Captain Clark actually saw Mount Adams] on the 19th of October last Covered with Snow, it rises Something in the form of a Sugar lofe- about a mile lower passed a Single house on the Lard. Side, and one on the Stard. Side, passed a village on each Side and Camped near a house on the Stard. Side [Post Office Lake vicinity, today within the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge] we proceeded on untill one hour after dark with a view to get clear of the nativs who was constantly about us, and troublesom, finding that we could not get Shut of those people for one night, we landed and Encamped on the Stard. Side ...

This evening we Saw vines much resembling the raspberry which is verry thick in the bottoms. A range of high hills at about 5 miles on the Lard Side [Portland's West Hills'] which runs S. E. & N W. Covered with tall timber the bottoms below in this range of hills and the river is rich and leavel, Saw White geese with a part of their wings black. The river here is 1 miles wide, and current jentle. opposite to our camp on a Small Sandy Island [one of the small sandy islands prevelent in this stretch of the Columbia. Today the Willow Bar Islands on the east side of Sauvie Island lie across from Post Office Lake.] the brant & geese make Such a noise that it will be impossible for me to Sleap. we made 29 miles to day





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*River Miles [RM] are approximate, in statute miles, and were determined from USGS topo maps, obtained from NOAA nautical charts, or obtained from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website, 2003

Sources:    "Columbian.com" website, 2004, 2005, 2006, "Reflections";    Freece, D.W., Masters Thesis, 1984, "A history of the street railway systems of Vancouver, Washington, 1889-1926", Portland State University;    Harrington, J.L., and Howard, E.E., Consulting Engineers, 1918, Final Report, The Columbia River Interstate Bridge, Vancouver, Washington to Portland, Oregon.    National Register of Historic Places website, 2004;    NOAA Office of Coast Surveys website, 2005;    Oregon Department of Transportation website, 2004; Washington State Department of Transportation website, 2006, Environmental Services, Historic Bridges;   

All Lewis and Clark quotations from Gary Moulton editions of the Lewis and Clark Journals, University of Nebraska Press, all attempts have been made to type the quotations exactly as in the Moulton editions, however typing errors introduced by this web author cannot be ruled out; location interpretation from variety of sources, including this website author.
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April 2016