With 12 impressive bridges spanning the Willamette River and encircling the city, there’s a reason the bridges in Portland, Oregon have earned it the moniker of Bridge City.
I’ve lived in Portland my whole life (love this city to bits) and wanted to round up the 12 most iconic bridges in Portland for those visiting the city. Longtime readers of this site know that I’m not one for small talk, so let’s get to the good stuff!
The Bridges of Portland, Oregon
#12. Marquam Bridge
The Marquam Bridge in Portland is as practical as they come. Think of this bridge as the aunt that organizes all family functions and keeps your weird uncle in check, but also sucks the fun out of the room.
Yep, that’s the Marquam Bridge for you. Beautiful she is not, but damn — she knows what needs to be done. All girth and concrete, this is one of the busiest bridges in Portland (and Oregon state), carrying 140,000 vehicles per day.
Worth mention: This is one of a handful of Portland bridges closed to pedestrians and bikes, but once a year (mid-August) the bridge is closed down for an event called the Providence Bridge Pedal. I’ll cover this event in more detail shortly.
- Year Built: 1963
- Pedestrian/Cycle path? No
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#11. Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge
If you were to ask me if I’d include the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge on my list of the bridges in Portland worth knowing about and I was feeling honest, I’d say no.
But alas, dating back to 1908 this is the oldest bridge in Portland and it is *technically a bridge (even though it’s only open to trains) so it must be mentioned.
But you know the cool thing about having your own website? You can keep the boring stuff to a minimum, so let’s move on to the more exciting bridges in Portland.
- Year Built: 1908
- Pedestrian/Cycle path? No
#10. Ross Island Bridge
The Ross Island Bridge is one of the most standard bridges in Portland. It’s not very memorable, but it gets the job done. Used exclusively by motor vehicles, the bridge carries up to 65,000 cars per day.
You’ll notice the influx of new bridges in Portland during the 1920s. It seems like Portland went through a little bridge boom and everyone wanted in on the action. The Ross Island Bridge was designed by a famous engineer named Gustav Lindenthal.
Again, quite uninspiring but it exists, so it must be included on any list of the bridges in Portland, Oregon. Alas, let’s keep it moving.
#9. Sellwood Bridge
The Sellwood Bridge dates back to 1925 but you wouldn’t know it, because the new bridge (completed in 2016) gave this Portland bridge a much-needed facelift. The bridge was heavily used and had been deteriorating since the 1960s. It was obvious that the bridge needed to better accommodate the various modes of traffic crossing the river.
Open to cars, cyclists and pedestrians, the deck-arch Sellwood Bridge is the southernmost bridge in Portland and connects the Sellwood and Westmoreland neighborhoods.
The original Sellwood Bridge was the first fixed-span bridge in Portland and served as the only river crossing for several miles in each direction, quickly becoming the busiest two-lane bridge in the state.
- Year Built: 1925, remodeled in 2016
- Pedestrian/bike crossing? Yes
#8. Morrison Bridge
Originally built in 1888, the the Morrison Bridge you see today was constructed in 1958. Today, this is one of the most heavily used bridges in Portland (averaging 50,000 cars daily). While not a looker like some of her neighbors, this Portland bridge is an engineering feat.
In fact, the Morrison Bridge is considered the largest mechanical device in Oregon.
The original Morrison Bridge was a humble wooden swing-span bridge that opened in 1887. At the time, it was the first bridge in Portland to span the Willamette River and was billed as the longest bridge west of the Mississippi River.
The second Morrison Bridge was built in 1905 (also a swing bridge, if it ain’t broke, right?) when improvements became necessary. It didn’t take long for folks to realize that the bridge would need to be replaced yet again because the second version of the Morrison Bridge was not designed for cars.
The 1958 rebuild of the bridge you see today is equipped with 36-foot-tall gears that drive 940 ton counterweights on either side of the pier. When not raised, the bridge boasts a clearance of 69 feet, which is sufficient for most river traffic and thus requiring the bridge to be opened only a handful of times per month (typically 30 times).
Portland Bridges Fun Fact: The Morrison Bridge doesn’t connect to Morrison Street on the west end. The reason? While the 1958 iteration of the Morrison Bridge was being built, the previous bridge (built in 1905) was left in operation, which necessitated the replacement bridge be built on a different alignment.
One of the coolest things about this Portland bridge is the LED system that illuminates the concrete piers and splashes fun colors unto the river below. Also worth mention, this Portland bridge’s pathways got a massive upgrade in 2009 when the ped and cyclist paths were improved.
- Year Built: Originally 1888, rebuilt in 1905 & 1958
- Pedestrian/cycling path? Yes
#7. Steel Bridge
Built in 1910, the Steel Bridge is a double-deck vertical lift bridge that carries vehicle traffic on the upper deck and rail, bikes and pedestrians on the lower deck. It’s the second oldest vertical life bridge in the country (after the Hawthorne Bridge).
This is one of the most recognizable Portland bridges because it’s multimodal (most locals have crossed it via MAX, bike or foot — it not car). Anyone that’s every gone to a Blazers game knows the importance of the bridge, it connect the Rose Quarter to the downtown core via Chinatown.
- Built: 1910
- Pedestrian/cycle path? Yes
- Fun Fact: The Steel Bridge is the only double-deck bridge with independent lifts in the world.
#6. Burnside Bridge
Located off of one of the busiest streets in Portland, the Burnside Bridge is best know for the Renaissance towers that look similar to air traffic control towers.
Built in 1926, this is one of the most popular bridges in Portland because of its proximity to the famous White Stag sign. The bridge serves as a direct connection between Portland and Beaverton and sees about 45,000 cars per day.
The bridge originally had 6 lanes of traffic but the City of Portland requested a redesign in 1995 and one of the lanes was removed to accommodate two bike lanes.
Cyclists and pedestrians seem to love this Portland bridge too. More than 2,000 pedestrians and 4,000 bikers cross the Burnside Bridge daily. Any way you slice it, this is one of the most used Portland bridges, carrying folks into and out of the city in hordes.
- Year Built: 1926
- Pedestrian/cycle path? Yes
Local’s Tip: Tom McCall Waterfront Park is the BEST spot for cherry blossoms in Portland, Oregon. Here’s all the proof you need.
#5. Broadway Bridge
Dating back to 1913, the Broadway Bridge has become one of the most iconic bridges in Portland. Rusty-red in color, this is one of the longest bascule bridges in Portland (more commonly known as a drawbridge).
A bascule bridge is a moveable bridge that uses a counterweight to continuously balance a span which can lift upwards to provide clearance for boats.
When it was being built in 1913 it was the first bascule bridge in Portland and is still the longest with a span of 1,742 feet.
My friend considers the Broadway Bridge as one of the best bridges in Portland, but I think he’s biased because we sees it out his window daily and rides his bike across at least twice a week.
This is one of the most biked Portland bridges thanks to the protected bike lanes. The bridge also carries the Portland Streetcar and motor vehicles. All told, this Portland bridge is a noisy affair, but a beauty to behold firsthand.
- Year Built: 1913
- Bike/Pedestrian path? Yes
#4. Hawthorne Bridge
Spanning nearly 1,400 feet, the Hawthorne Bridge is one of the busiest bridges in Portland. Carrying 30,000 vehicles and nearly 1,500 cyclists per day. In 2012 the City of Portland installed a bike barometer on the bridge to count the number of cyclists crossing it daily. You can see today’s count by clicking here.
The city is keen on improving biking infrastructure on the Hawthorne Bridge and invested a cool $22 million in upgrades in 1998, which widened the sidewalks. The end result? This became one of the most biked bridges in Portland.
In 2001, the bridge was connected to the Eastbank Esplanade and the Springwater corridor, making it even more enjoyable for walkers, runners and cyclists.
The bridge was built to replace the Madison Bridge, which was destroyed by a fire in 1902. Today, this Portland bridge has an interesting claim to fame: it’s the oldest operational vertical-lift bridge in the country.
- Year Built: 1910
- Pedestrian/bike crossing? Yes
- Fun Fact: The Hawthorne Bridge is the oldest vertical lift bridge in America that is operational to this day (the bridge was opened in 1910 when William Taft was President!).
#3. Tilikum Crossing Bridge
Now, I’m not saying I have a favorite bridge in Portland, but if I did? It’d definitely be Tikilum Crossing (sometimes known as the Bridge of the People). I mean, just look at this thing! It’s a masterpiece.
Opened in 2015, this is one of the newest bridges in Portland (but not the newest, that title belongs to Blumenauer Bridge which spans I-84).
Tilikum is the Chinook word for “people” which makes sense, considering this is one of the Portland bridges that doesn’t allow vehicle traffic. This bridge is the city’s creative solution for accommodating the influx of cyclists and pedestrians (the city is growing like a weed).
I’ve biked this bridge a handful of times and it’s always a joy. The LED lights are a nice touch too, illuminating the stunning bridge for all to see. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful bridges in Portland and it’d be hard to convince me otherwise.
- Year Built: 2011, opened 2015
- Pedestrian/bike crossing? Yes
#2. Fremont Bridge
Opened in 1973, the Fremont Bridge will be celebrating 50 years in 2023! This is one of the most iconic bridges in Portland, forever looming over the city’s magnificent skyline!
In terms of pedestrian and bike traffic this Portland bridge is a no-go. It’s a victim of its time, really. When the bridge opened in 1973 it was unusual for interstates and bridges to accommodate anything more than motorized vehicles and the Fremont Bridge is no exception.
However, there is a super cool biking event (called Provident Bridge Pedal) which opens the bridge up the second week of August for bikers and walkers exclusively. And let me tell you, the views from the top deck are something else!
- Year Built: 1968, opened 1973
- Pedestrian/Cycles? No
- Fun Fact: The Fremont Bridge is the 32nd longest arch bridge in the world.
Word to the wise: Learn about the Bridge Pedal
The Portland Bridge Pedal is a beloved annual event typically held mid-August. This is a non-competitive event where folks gear up for a spin amidst other Portlanders.
Locals love this event because of the unique opportunity to bike across several bridges in Portland that are usually closed to pedestrians and bikers (the Marquam and Fremont bridges).
Interested? You’ll want to register in advance, and I suggest trying your hand at the 6-Bridge Challenge. The event spans 13 miles and crosses 6 Portland bridges.
#1. St. Johns Bridge
Let’s face it, the St. John’s Bridge needs no introduction. Standing at an impressive height of 408-feet, this is the tallest bridge in Portland. The gothic-inspired stunner is often deemed one of the most beautiful bridges in Portland and I’m reluctant to disagree.
Hell, I don’t know a single local that didn’t do a photoshoot near (or on) the bridge at least once. Our friends recently got their engagement photos in the area and they turned out beautifully!
Alright, let’s talk logistics. The St. Johns Bridge is a steel suspension bridge that spans the Willamette in North Portland (several miles from the downtown core). The bridge spans an impressive 2,067 feet and offers 205 feet of navigational clearance.
Getting funding to build what would become one of the most beautiful bridges in Portland was no easy feat. For starters, north Portland didn’t have much political sway or capital to convince the city to build the bridge. The area was served by a ferry that carried 1,000 vehicles per day but it was clear a bridge would better serve the area better.
Deals were brokered and the decision was made: more bridges in Portland! The best part? Construction began one month before the Stock Market Crash of 1929, which ended up providing locals with employment during the Great Depression.
Fun Fact: The St. Johns Bridge is located in close proximity to the Swan Island Airport. As such, government officials wanted the bridge painted yellow with black stripes. But county officials said “no way” and waited until St. Patrick’s Day 1931 to announce the new bridge in Portland would be painted a pleasant shade of green.
- Year Built: 1929, opened 1931
- Pedestrian/Cycles? Yes
Portland Bridges FAQ + Facts
There are 12 bridges in Portland, Oregon. This list sums up all the bridges in Portland (with facts!).
Bisected by 12 bridges crossing the Willamette River, the city’s number of bridges have earned it the moniker of Bridge City. Funny enough, Portland doesn’t rank near the top of US cities with the most bridges. Heck, Pittsburgh has 446 bridges!
The most famous bridge in Portland is St. John’s Bridge in north Portland. The iconic structure serves as a symbol for the city in various artwork (like posters and other merchandise).
Dating back to 1908, the Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge is the oldest bridge in Portland and is used exclusively for locomotives. If we’re talking about Portland bridges not built for trains, then the title of oldest bridge in Portland goes to the Hawthorne Bridge, which opened in 1910.
The following bridges in Portland allow folks to cross on foot or bike: Broadway Bridge, Steel Bridge, Tilikum Crossing, Hawthorne Bridge, Fremont Bridge and Sellwood Bridge.
Opened in 2022, the Blumenauer Bridge is one of the newest bridges in Portland. Named after the state’s beloved U.S. Representative, Earl Blumenauer, this pedestrian & bike bridge serves as a vital connection between the Lloyd District and Central Eastside.
Famous Portland, Oregon Bridges (Post Overview)
In sum, here’s a quick roundup of the most famous bridges in Portland, Oregon.
- St. Johns Bridge
- Fremont Bridge
- Tilikum Crossing Bridge
- Hawthorne Bridge
- Burnside Bridge
- Broadway Bridge
- Steel Bridge
- Morrison Bridge
- Sellwood Bridge
- Marquam Bridge
- Burlington Northern Railroad Bridge
- Ross Island Bridge
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