Finding those special places just off the beaten path is a wonderful benefit of RVing. Next time your RV travels take you up the west side of Willamette Pass on Highway 58 in Oregon, stop and explore the Office Covered Bridge and Salt Creek Falls.
Traveling east from Interstate 5, about 40 miles southeast of Eugene, your first stop will be the picturesque Office Covered Bridge. At 180 feet, it is the longest covered bridge in Oregon. It was built in 1944 by the Westfir Lumber Company using triple Howe truss construction to supply the strength required to carry heavy logging trucks. The bridge was built to connect the lumber mill with the office (hence the name of the bridge).
The truss members are gigantic, constructed with multiple tension rods and compound chord members. This bridge is one of only two covered bridges in Oregon that was constructed with triple Howe truss members. Another distinctive attribute is a covered walkway separate from the roadway. It is the only covered bridge west of the Mississippi with such a feature.
The company-owned town of Westfir, including the bridge, was sold in 1977 to an investment company. In the early 1980s the mill burned and the bridge was closed to traffic. In 1992, the bridge was inherited by Lane County through property tax foreclosure. Extensive structural work in 1993 stabilized the bridge and it was reopened to traffic. Roof replacement followed in 2002. Then in 2003, a small park was established on the north side of the bridge where the mill stood. The old offices are now a bed and breakfast.
The park serves as a trailhead to the North Fork Trail that follows the wild and scenic section of the North Fork of the Middle Fork of the Willamette River.
Continue east on Highway 58 for just over 20 miles and you will reach the sign marking the turnoff for Salt Creek Falls. The falls and Salt Creek are named for a series of springs with high salt content used as salt licks by wildlife.
Salt Creek Falls is a stunning sight and the second highest falls in Oregon. It is the most powerful waterfall in Southern Oregon with an average yearly flow of nearly 50,000 gallons per minute (sufficient water to supply the water needs of a community of 180,000).
There are numerous views of the falls along the canyon rim, but the best is about halfway down the trail leading to the base of the falls. For those who can handle the hike down and back, the view is more than worth it. But given the strength and magnitude of this waterfall, you should know that you might be soaked by the time you get there!
The Willamette National Forest’s Salt Creek Falls observation site has ample RV parking, rest rooms, picnic area, and a well-maintained trail down to the bottom of the falls. A viewing platform about 150 feet down the trail is wheelchair accessible.
Next time you find yourself climbing Willamette Pass, give yourself and your RV a break at these two sites. You’ll be glad you did and you will have accumulated a couple of gems to share with family and friends back home.
Dave Helgeson and his wife promote RV and manufactured home shows in western Washington. They spend their free time traveling and enjoying the RV lifestyle.
IF YOU GO:
Office Covered Bridge: From Interstate 5 take Highway 58 east toward Oakridge. Just before entering Oakridge, near milepost 31, turn southeast (left) onto Westridge Avenue. Continue on Westridge crossing over a bridge after a short distance. After crossing the bridge, turn left toward the community of Westfir on County Road 6128. Travel about 2.5 miles to the community, bridge and mill site. RV parking is available on the south side of the bridge across the street from a bed and breakfast. If your RV has high clearance and you feel adventurous, you may drive your RV across the single lane bridge to the park on the other side. There is no charge to visit the bridge or the park. You can return the way you came or continue east up and over the hill to Oakridge, rejoining the highway there.
Salt Creek Falls: Salt Creek Falls is about 21 miles east of Oakridge and five miles west of Willamette Pass on Highway 58. A Northwest Forest Recreation Pass or payment of a $5 fee is required to park in the day use area of Salt Creek Falls.