When the weather warms, it seems far too many Oregon byways can be busy blurs that just don’t allow you enough time to slow down and set your own pace for travel across the state.
In the southern Willamette Valley, you will slow down and savor the spirit of cycling adventure along the new “Covered Bridges Scenic Bikeway” near Cottage Grove.
"There’s certain pride to your pedaling when your hometown offers the best of the best," said Travis Palmer, a Cottage Grove resident.
Palmer boasted that his community’s recent recognition of the scenic bikeway by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department was a capstone for a 'rail-to-trail' conversion project: “It’s the scenery, it’s the quiet, it’s the wildlife and there’s no doubt in your mind that you’re on one of the best pieces of trail in the state.”
You’ll love rolling through six bridges on a 36-mile stretch of flat, paved bikeway as you glide past scenery that takes your breath away.
Longtime resident, Greg Lee, said “It adds to everything that’s already here: we have the nearby mountain rivers and Dorena Lake for boating, fishing, camping and hiking, so the bikeway adds to the flavor of the place.”
Palmer added that the “crown jewel” of the Cottage Grove bridges is the recently restored Chambers Bridge, the only covered railroad bridge west of the Mississippi.
“Covered bridges were torn down by the thousands across the country and only a handful of communities really recognized how great and important they were – Cottage Grove is one of those places.”
Built in the 1920’s, Chambers Bridge had hit on hard times was on the brink of collapse a couple of years ago. The community decided they couldn’t let that happen.
They raised millions of dollars to fund the restoration and in 2010 work began.
They took the old bridge apart piece-by-piece.
“If we’re the covered bridge capital of Oregon,” said Palmer. “How could we let the biggest, the best, the most historic fall into the river? It was important to save this bridge and glad we did.”
The rebuilding of Chambers Bridge went on the fast track!
They used 30 percent of the old bridge materials and re-built a connection with history that reopened to cyclists and hikers in December 2011.
“We saved a structure that defined us and sets us apart from every other town in America!” said Palmer.
It is also a reflection of the larger Cottage Grove dedication to hold on to history: “We are a classic small town in America downtown! If you walk downtown, see all these great old shops and yet we’ve got modern business tucked in there too. We fancy ourselves as the melting pot of the Pacific Northwest.”
Blair Winter showed up a couple years ago and added a key ingredient to the Cottage Grove melting pot when he bought the Rainy Peak Bicycles, the town’s only bike shop.
He is an ambassador of sorts for the fast growing two-wheeled recreation and said the new Covered Bridges Bikeway is a perfect fit for the southern end of the Willamette Valley.
“It’s family friendly and a really easy to ride with little traffic, and of course, the mountain bike community has discovered some of our great mountain trails as well.”
He is right! Oakridge, Oregon is little more than an hour away and boasts over 500 miles of Cascade Mountain trails that offer a challenge and fine compliment to the new scenic bikeway.
If you don’t normally travel with your bike – not to worry – Rainy Peak also rents bikes, so you can cruise in, rent a bike and get on the new bikeway in a matter of minutes.