Hiking Portland’s Interstate Bridge
Tuesday 14 June 2016 — Category: Outings
At the end of February, on the same day as one of my volunteer sessions at Free Geek in Portland, I started off with a small photo hike at the northern end of the city. I left my house in Albany at 5:30, had breakfast at a Portland Gateway McDonald‘s at 6:50, and caught a westbound MAX Blue Line train at the Gateway Transit Center at 7:15.
After changing to the MAX Yellow Line in the Rose Quarter area, I arrived at the northern end of the line at the Expo Center Station at 8:00, which at that time of the year is pretty much at sunrise — just look at the long shadows!
From there I walked north a short distance to Marine Drive West, and then proceeded to follow the circuitous bicycle / pedestrian path along the outer contours of the I-5 / Oregon Route 99E cloverleaf interchange. Eventually the path cut across the northeast cloverleaf and continued along the northbound lanes of the I-5.
While crossing the apparently-unnamed bridge over the 300-yard (280 meter) wide North Portland Harbor channel of the Columbia River, I enjoyed a good view of the 8,365-foot (formerly 9,677-foot) Mount St. Helens, about 47 miles to the northwest. Soon I arrived on Hayden Island, one of Portland’s 95 neighborhoods.
The width of Hayden Island where the I-5 crosses is only about 765 yards (700 meters), so in no time I had made it to the southern end of the outing’s main attraction: the 3,538-foot Interstate Bridge, which carries the I-5 over the main channel of the Columbia River between Hayden Island, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington.
During the two-thirds-of-a-mile walk along the eastern edge of the bridge I was treated not only to great views of the Columbia River and the 11,249-foot Mount Hood, (the highest peak in the state, about 50 miles away), but also to interesting close-up perspectives of the structure of the bridge itself. Particularly fascinating were the four 190-foot vertical-lift towers at the northern end of the bridge.
It is interesting to note that this bridge was built in two separate phases in two different decades. The original bridge, which opened in 1917, now carries the three northbound lanes of the I-5. An identical bridge just to the west opened in 1958 to carry the three southbound lanes. I think it is really great that they included a nice bicycle / pedestrian path on the outer edges of both bridges.
When I arrived on terra firma in Vancouver, I was treated to a stunning view of the entire length of the 1917 bridge, as well as the four lift towers. But because I had a busy day and a schedule to keep, I wasn’t able to spend any time in the city beyond taking a few pictures. In light of the recent news of the hot Vancouver beer scene, perhaps I should be planning another visit!
For the return two-thirds of a mile, I walked along the western side of the 1958 portion of the bridge. When I was around the Oregon / Washington state line in the middle of the river, I took eleven pictures which I combined into a wonderfully-wide panorama photo. Click on the preview below to see the whole huge view! After the 4½-mile round-trip hike to Vancouver, I arrived back at the Expo Center Max Station 2½ hours later. It was only 10:30, but I still had a long, action-packed day ahead of me! I took MAX trains southeast to the Lent Neighborhood for lunch, then went on a Portland Central Eastside mini pub crawl, with my visit to Free Geek sandwiched in between stops. That evening I participated in a unique Sellwood Bridge bagpipe funeral procession.
Once that was over at around 7:40, I still had a 1¼-mile hike to the nearest MAX station. That walk, plus rides on two trains, brought me to my truck at the Gateway Transit Center about an hour and a half later. Then it was another 90-minute drive back home to Albany, where I finally arrived at 11:00, 17½ hours after I had set out! What a wonderful day of great experiences in Portland!
You can go on a virtual walk across the bridge by browsing through the 61 photos in the new Portland Interstate Bridge 2016 album, which includes, besides the one panorama, one color splash image and a whopping 25 black and white pictures. Better yet, I hope that one day you have the opportunity to walk this bridge in person.