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About Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current | View Entire Issue (April 11, 2018)
4A ܂ WEDNESDAY, APRIL 11, 2018 ܂ APPEAL TRIBUNE
Life in the Valley
A place of heartbreak
The bridge across Drift Creek hovers 100 feet in the air. JEFF GREEN/DYNAMIC PHOTOGRAPHY
Drift Creek Falls bridge provides fantastic views, but carries a tragic tale
Zach Urness Salem Statesman Journal
USA TODAY NETWORK
The most spectacular back-
country bridge in Oregon turned 20
last year, and it’s just as amazing
now as it was back in 1997.
Located deep in the Coast
Range, east of Lincoln City, the
240-foot suspension bridge soars
across treetops and above Drift
Creek Falls at the end of a popular
1.5 mile hike.
The bridge is supported by two
giant towers and anchored by bolts
planted in the rock, but it still feels
a bit like walking across a wobbly
tightrope 100 feet above a rocky
It’s a thrill for kids — my 3-year-
old almost lost her mind with joy
upon reaching this wooden sky-
way, even while some adults ner-
vously scurry across its planks.
But Drift Creek Bridge, the long-
est trail bridge on national forest
lands in the Northwest, also is
marked by tragedy.
Upon reaching the bridge, visi-
tors are greeted with a small plaque
that reads: “Dedicated to the mem-
ory of Scott Paul: his vision for this
bridge will live forever.”
Paul was the engineering brains
behind the ambitious Drift Creek
bridge. It was a project that “many
thought could not be built,” his
friend Carroll Vogel wrote.
“Scott Paul was consumed with
passion for this project,” he wrote.
“It burned like a ﬁre inside him.”
Sadly, Paul would not see his
While trying to move an excava-
tor across the canyon, Paul became
tangled in a rigging line and was
pulled down into the 100-foot
chasm his bridge was meant to
connect, according to a 1997 story
from the Eugene Register-Guard.
His death would stall the project
for years, until Vogel, a Seattle-
based contractor, picked up the
The project was no small feat. A
helicopter ﬂew in the largest pieces
and buckets of concrete. Vogel and
his team “spent their days working
in midair above the canyon, put-
ting together the walkway — a 30-
inch wide structure with chest-
high safety railings,” according to
the Register-Guard story, even in
the driving rain.
All the eﬀort, though, has left
something special at this beloved
trail in Siuslaw National Forest,
which is best to visit during the
After almost a mile and a half in
the forest, the trail reaches the
bridge and leaves hikers in awe-
struck wonder as they clamber
across. It’s hard to know whether
Lucy and Rollie enjoy a trailside snack on Drift Creek Falls Trail. ZACH URNESS/STATESMAN JOURNAL
The suspension bridge on Drift
Creek Falls Trail has a dedication
to Scott Paul.
ZACH URNESS/STATESMAN JOURNAL
to hold onto the railings for safety,
or stare down at the 80-foot water-
fall booming directly below your
The trail continues on the oppo-
site side of the canyon, heading
down to a picnic table and view-
point of the waterfall and bridge
It’s a moment to stand in awe,
both of the natural beauty, but also
at the audacity of the engineer who
gave his life for this remarkable
“When you make that journey
do not doubt that Scott is there,
awaiting your visit,” Vogel wrote.
“He is present in the laughter of
children as they scamper forth
above the canyon. And in the gasp
of awe when adults step away from
the cliﬀ and observe the world be-
neath their feet tumbling away to
airiness and mist; only the bridge
between them and the great un-
Zach Urness has been an out-
doors writer, photographer and
videographer in Oregon for 10
years. He is the author of the book
“Hiking Southern Oregon” and can
be reached at zurness@Statesman-
Journal.com or (503) 399-6801.
Find him on Twitter at @ZachsO-
The suspension bridge on Drift Creek Falls Trail offers view of the
waterfall and deep gorge. ZACH URNESS/STATESMAN JOURNAL
Drift Creek Falls Trail
In a nutshell: Kid-friendly hike in the Coast Range east of Lincoln
City, highlighted by a suspension bridge and 80-foot waterfall.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Length: 3 miles
Elevation drop & climb: 350 feet
Open: Year-round, but best in spring after some rain.
Crowds: Can be heavy on nice weekends, so arrive early to get a
parking spot. Mid-week is much quieter.
Directions (from Salem): From Salem, travel west on Highway 22
and merge onto Highway 18 toward Lincoln City. After passing
Grande Ronde / Spirit Mountain Casino, continue another 18 miles.
Near Rose Lodge, turn left on Bear Creek County Road for 3.5 miles.
Continue straight seven miles on Forest Service Road 17 to trailhead.
Directions (From Lincoln City area): From Highway 101 on the south
end of Lincoln City, turn east on Drift Creek Road, turn right on South
Drift Creek Road about a quarter of a mile. Turn left onto Forest Ser-
vice Road 17, approximately 10 miles to trailhead.