Under Portland’s Bridges

A look underneath Portland’s iconic bridges reveals a whole different world than that on the topside.

Many of the bridges span as much land as water. A wide variety of urban life exists under the bridges of the city – homeless encampments, businesses, passing trains, urban trails such as the Springwater Corridor, and various activities that occur at the water’s edge. The phrase “under the bridge” connotes different things – a place of danger, a place of misfortune, a place or refuge. In Portland, spaces under bridges are quite varied but collectively they are surprisingly active places.


The Burnside Bridge, for example, has a skate park on its east side and the Saturday Market under the west side. The Gothic-style buttresses of the St. Johns Bridge (my favorite) frame the aptly named Cathedral Park below. Little side story. Because of its proximity to the Swan Island Municipal Airport,  some government officials wanted the St. Johns bridge painted yellow with black stripes. County officials waited until St. Patrick’s Day 1931 to announce that it would be painted green. The bottom level of the Steel Bridge supports pedestrian, bike and freight train traffic.  Longtime late night comfort food establishment Le Bistro Montage is nestled under the Morrison Bridge. Somewhere under the Marquam Bridge sits the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. Different from the rest is the souring Fremont Bridge, whose elevation creates on underbelly of large and open amorphous spaces.

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