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Caveman Bridge

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A May 3 ceremony rededicated the iconic Caveman Bridge and confirmed its importance to Grants Pass and as a tourism connection to the Oregon Caves and the Redwoods.

“It’s notable when a community takes an image of a bridge and makes it part of its logo,” said ODOT Historian Chris Bell at the late morning ceremony.  “That tells me this structure is very much a part of the DNA of Grants Pass and its people, who often see themselves in that bridge.”

For the past 18 months, the bridge has been under repair, the first comprehensive overhaul of the bridge since it first opened in 1931.

Repairs included a structural strengthening, a complete cleaning, repair of the defective concrete, replacement of the Art Deco bridge rail and new period lighting. Several 1950s style ‘Cobra’ lights that had been added to the bridge were also removed.

“The bridge has what I consider the big three hallmarks of a great Conde McCullough bridge,” said Bell, of the noted Oregon bridge designer.

“The first is a solution uniquely situated to its location. McCullough always sought to maximize design efficiency. And given he could spring arches from the river, he elected for this particular design. He also sought to heighten its visual success using a rail type rarely seen elsewhere in Oregon,” said Bell.

The other notable example of that bridge rail, said Bell, is Cape Creek Bridge near Florence on U.S. 101.

Bell also worked with the city of Grants Pass on the refurbishing of the historic Redwood Empire sign. The sign sits at the north end of the bridge and for decades acted as a northern gateway to the Redwoods and northern California coastline.  The sign, which was refurbished by a Eugene area company, was unveiled as part of the community celebration.

Although the original sign had been changed over the years, the refurbished sign stayed nearly true to the times when the sign was lit.  

In a ‘then and now’ moment, a historic photo of a mother and daughter on vacation in their late 1930s sedan was replicated as part of the May 3 ceremony.

Also acknowledged at the ceremony was contractor HP Civil, which refurbished the bridge and was able to keep the bridge open to at least a single lane for nearly the entire duration of the $5.3 million rehabilitation project.

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