by Katy Nesbitt
Wallowa Valley Online
WALLOWA, Ore – Almost a century after it was moved from Wallowa to Minam, an historic bridge spans the Wallowa River once more in its third, and possibly final, home.
A bridge stamped with the date 1911 has lived in Minam since at least 30’s. It once crossed the Wallowa River in the town of the same name before being moved to Minam, crossing the river on the Deer Creek Road. When the bridge was deemed out of federal compliance Oregon Department of Transportation came up with a plan and the money to replace it with a new one, but because of the previous bridge’s historic value, the county had to find it a new home. The Nez Perce Homeland Project’s Tamkaliks Powwow grounds ended up being the ideal fit.
Ralph Swinehart is a board member for the Homeland Project and an engineer by trade. Before a giant crane, capable of lifting 600 tons, placed the bridge over the river Swinehart explained the three-bridge project at the powwow grounds.
Swinehart said, “The Deer Creek Road bridge is coming home to cross the Wallowa River, a ‘sister’ bridge that used to cross Bear Creek will be placed on the south side of the river and used as an approach ramp and timbers will be used for a ramp on the north side.”
A similar styled bridge that once spanned Catherine Creek in Union County waiting its final resting place on the powwow grounds will cross a side channel will be created in the next few years as part of a river restoration project for fish habitat, Swinehart said.
A small crowd gathered to swatch the crane lift, move and place the bridge on a brand new abutments made this summer. The bridge was moved in May from Minam to the powwow grounds in the dark of night to avoid traffic in the winding Wallowa River Canyon. It was moved from Deer Creek Road in Minam to Wallowa in May.