Thomas Creek Bridge

When you are were way up Old Highway 101, in the Oregon Coast Range, if you look toward the coast, you might notice the Thomas Creek Bridge, near the Pacific Ocean. It is a testament to engineering, certainly. The bridge spans the Thomas Creek canyon and is the highest one in Oregon, at almost 350 feet. Basically, you can take a football field and set it on the ground, and hike vertically up that footbal feild, and you *still* couldn’t touch the bridge above.

One branch of my extended family, the Colgroves, used to own the Thomas Creek canyon, from the ocean to several miles inland, by their house. They were sheep ranchers and loggers. They ran a lodge where Jack London stayed. The lodge is still standing–now a private residence–but now people ignore the sheep, and the old Douglas firs. if you look westward, all you see is that bridge.

ThomasCreekWhen I was a kid, we called it the Whistling Bridge because when you drove the approximately 1000′ span, the acoustics, or maybe the wind or something, made a moaning sound. At some point an adult told me the whistling was the sighs of the Indian spirits who lived and died in the canyon. We didn’t call it Dead Indian Bridge though. The Whistling Bridge was fine, even if it was a little less creepy.

Another adult told me that really mean people would throw their pets off the bridge. And I don’t mean parrots. This may have been one of those “urban” legends because there are a hundred stories about people who put their puppies in a bag and toss them off the side of high bridges. I’m sure somebody has done it.

You could peer down the Thomas Creek canyon and look down there. Just thinking about it makes my stomach tighten with the thrill of being so far up. Or not even that– it is probably the thought of falling so far, so quickly. You know the sensation, I’m sure, when you’re way, way up on a place, and you know that a brisk wind, or an errant thought could make you to step off. That feeling of the quick drop hits your stomach and the sharp adrenaline pumps into your brain, quickening your pulse, and dilating your pupils.  And then you come back to yourself. You’re standing on solid ground. And you aren’t falling, or tipping. You’re just letting your emotion get carried away. But one slip, and you know you’d be joining the souls of the Natives.

271625-LThe bridge was built in 1961. Since then, a person takes their life about once a decade, by jumping off it. It takes 5 seconds to fall to the tiny creek below. it’s barely even enough water to make a riffle. You’d hit ground, at 70 miles an hour. Also, it takes emergency crews 30 minutes to haul your body back up to the top. I just read a couple

To top all this off, somebody regularly paints the bridge *green*. They don’t let the elements get to it. It’s a more pale green than John Deere. It reminds me of the US Forest Service trucks I used to wash in high school, to earn an extra buck for my choir trips. Only, you don’t have to climb scaffolding, or hang from a ledge when you paint a Forest Service truck.

If you get a chance, you should ask someone in Brookings where *old* highway 101 is, and then you should drive the length of that highway From until you reach Cape Sebastian. And you should look westward, and breathe deep. You’ll see some of the most rugged Pacific Ocean territory imaginable, and if you look a little harder, maybe you’ll see a few whales migrating to Mexico or Alaska. But most certainly, you’ll see that bridge. It will probably take your breath away, just like it did for me.


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