Straddling the sparkling Willamette River in the heart of Portland, Oregon, the Burnside Bridge has always been a beloved landmark and a vital connection point for the city. It’s not just a transportation artery but also a testament to Portland’s rich history, architectural prowess, and its unwavering commitment to urban innovation.

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Built in 1926, the Burnside Bridge is an elegant double-leaf bascule bridge, one of the few of its kind in the U.S. Stretching 2,308 feet from east to west, it carries Burnside Street, one of Portland’s main thoroughfares. This marvel of early 20th-century engineering was designed by Gustav Lindenthal, a notable engineer, and his student Joseph Strauss, who later became the chief engineer of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge.
The most distinctive architectural feature of the Burnside Bridge is the pair of Italian Renaissance towers that house the machinery for the bascule spans. With their white exteriors and blue accents, these towers add a touch of elegance to the city’s skyline. The opening span of the bridge, an impressive 252 feet, allows large vessels to pass along the Willamette River, showcasing the city’s vibrant maritime activity.
But the Burnside Bridge is more than just a historic monument; it’s a dynamic part of Portland’s daily life. Thousands of commuters rely on the bridge every day, whether they’re in motor vehicles, on bicycles, or on foot. Its well-designed lanes and sidewalks cater to all, making it an essential link between key areas of the city, including the bustling downtown district and the vibrant, creative Eastside.
On Saturdays, the area beneath the bridge’s west end transforms into the Portland Saturday Market, the largest continuously operating open-air crafts market in the country. Here, you’ll find a wide array of handmade goods, delicious food stalls, and live entertainment, creating a lively and communal atmosphere that adds to the bridge’s charm.
In recent years, the Burnside Bridge has also become a site of cultural expression and civic engagement. It’s often used as a gathering spot for parades, demonstrations, and other community events. One of the most memorable events is the annual Providence Bridge Pedal, a community bicycle ride that celebrates Portland’s iconic bridges.
In summary, the Burnside Bridge is more than just a crossing over the Willamette River. It’s an icon that embodies Portland’s spirit – a perfect blend of historical legacy, architectural beauty, functional design, and vibrant community life. Whether you’re admiring it from afar, crossing its path, or experiencing a city event on its grounds, the Burnside Bridge stands as a compelling symbol of Portland’s dynamic urban fabric.

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