Where's the Oldest Bridge in Lewis County?

One of Lewis County's most popular trails is home to a bridge that has a rich history, having been built just 31 years after the Civil War ended in America.

We mentioned here on the DLC Blog before that the Willapa Hills Trail was once a very active railroad that carried the Northern Pacific line from Chehalis to South Bend. As such, the bridges along the route are more than a century old — and the one right by the Chehalis trailhead was built four years before the turn of the 20th century.

The bridge, which has no proper name, is believed to be the oldest in Lewis County, having been built in 1896 to span the Newaukum River.

The steel structure has withstood years of use, and the steel used in the structure shows. The moss and rusted iron all along the bridge's structure speak not only to the bridge's age, but its ability to withstand all sorts of harsh weather that has hit the area over the years. Floods, high wind and heavy rain have only managed to show the structure's strength.

BridgeHunter.com has some interesting information on the bridge: It was built by Pencoyd Iron Works of Pencoyd, Pennsylvania and is classified as a through-truss bridge. According to this piece of history, Pencoyd Iron Works was one of the nation's leading bridge builders at the time, but unfortunately the company went out of business during the Great Depression.

A plaque bolted onto the bridge bears the name of its builder and the year of its construction, and is viewable from the west.

The bridge is only known as "Bridge 0" because of its location along the railroad. This stretch of trail was the eastern end of the line between Chehalis and South Bend, and is technically located between miles 0 and 1.

As another interesting tidbit, if you step out onto the bridge at mid-span and take a look to the east bank of the river to the north, you might be able to see an old car on the riverbank hidden near a tree. It's on private property, so don't try to get to it yourself; rather, just spend some time from the bridge and find this oddity.

Lewis County's oldest bridge carried numerous trains in its heyday, and has since been repurposed to carry recreational traffic, further cementing its significance to the region as a link on what will soon be one of the premier rail-to-trail corridors in Washington State.

How to get there: Take Exit 77 from Interstate 5 and turn onto Riverside Drive. Follow the signs to the Steam Train, and bear right when the road becomes Hillburger Road. Follow the road to its end and you will arrive at the Chehalis trailhead of the Willapa Hills Trail. The bridge is only a few hundred feet from the trailhead.