The Long Bridge

The Bridge to Sandpoint

The two mile long bridge spanning the mouth of the Pend Oreille River leads to Sandpoint on the north end. Today's bridge, as the 3 previous ones, offers panoramic views of the river, lake and mountains and is a key access point for people living south of the town.

The Long Bridges

Sometime around 1900, Tom Craig’s 2 ½ year old son accidently chopped his toe off. The family lived south of the Pend Oreille River and the only ways for the panicked father to get to the doctor in Sandpoint was by ferry, rowboat or the train trestle. Tom started running with his son across the trestle but had to jump to the side on a water barrel platform when a train approached. The train slowed, and Tom jumped on and rode into Sandpoint, where his son received treatment. This event highlighted the need to build a bridge to link communities on both sides of the river. Encouraged by farmer on the south side of the river, the Kootenai County commissioners began to plan for new bridge.

On December 1909 contractors Donovon & Pearson drove the last nail into the 10,360 foot wooden bridge built. Some claim that it was the longest wooden bridge in the world at that time. The Wagon Bridge, as it was called, had a drawbridge to allow steamboats to pass through and used one million board feet of local timber. The sturdy bridge was well used for 23 years but by 1930 the wood decking started falling and cars had to dodge the holes while crossing the bridge.

A second bridge built just downstream of the first was also constructed of wood. By this time the steamboat trade on Lake Pend Oreille had dwindled so there was no need for a drawbridge. Construction began in 1934, at the height of the Great Depression, and the project created employment for members of about 750 families in the area that needed assistance. Men were hired to log the timber, haul it to the mills, cut the lumber and build the bridge. Idaho governor C. Ben Ross visited Sandpoint in March 1934 for the dedication ceremony.

Idaho winters are hard on a wooden bridge, and by 1956 a replacement was needed. A new steel and concrete structure was constructed to the east of the second bridge and had a northern entrance in Sandpoint near the NPRR tracks and away from First Avenue. This change was unsettling to residents until they realized the highway would still pass through downtown Sandpoint. The cost, almost $12 million dollars,, was quite an increase from the $20,000 cost of the first bridge.

The fourth bridge--so far--was built in 1981. The third bridge was left as a walking and biking route. The Idaho Transportation Department completed a by-pass removing Highway 95 from downtown Sandpoint. Today Long Bridge fulfills its original function as the primary access point into Sandpoint from the south. It connects the rural communities and farms to the city and gives everyone breathtaking views of the lake, river and mountains that North Idaho is famous for.

Images

Sandpoint's Wagon Bridge

Sandpoint's Wagon Bridge

The first bridge across the Pend Oreille River ( 1909 – 1934) was a wooden wagon bridge. There was a hand crank lift near the southern end of the bridge to allow steamboats to cross from the river on the left to the lake on the right. The lift or draw was near the main channel of the river. By the time the second bridge was built in 1934 there were few steamers on the lake and the lift was no longer needed. Courtesy of the Bonner County Historical Museum. View File Details Page

The second bridge to Sandpoint.

The second bridge to Sandpoint.

In 1934 the 2nd bridge across the Pend Oreille River (1934 – 1956) was constructed next to the original wooden bridge. The wooden planks on the original bridge were falling through leaving holes in the bridge making it unsafe to travel. The gap in the mountains just left of the bridge is the future Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort. Courtesy of the Bonner County Historical Museum. View File Details Page

The third bridge to Sandpoint.

The third bridge to Sandpoint.

In 1956 the third bridge stretched across the river at a new location. The old bridge is to the right and connected First Avenue to the south side. The new bridge made of steel and concrete left Sandpoint closer to the Northern Pacific railroad track and then cut across the river to the south side. A one mile causeway was built from Sandpoint which shortened the bridge to 5,897 feet. Courtesy of the Bonner County Historical Museum. View File Details Page

The current bridge to Sandpoint.

The current bridge to Sandpoint.

The south end of the new long bridge. A walking path goes under the bridge by the yellow sign allowing people to easily cross the highway and walk on the old bridge that was left as a walking bridge into Sandpoint. The bridge was originally called the Wagon Bridge but the name changed to literally describe the length of the bridges since the first one, the Long Bridge. Courtesy of Mary Garrison. View File Details Page

The bridges of Sandpoint

The bridges of Sandpoint

This circa 1910 picture of Sandpoint shows the three main bridges in the town. The closest bridge is the Cedar Street Bridge (now a shopping mall) that connected Cedar Street on the right to the Northern Pacific train depot on the left. The middle bridge is Bridge Street Bridge that connected First Avenue on the right to the entrance of the city beach on the left. The top bridge is the Wagon Bridge that connected First Avenue to the south side of the river. Courtesy of the Bonner County Historical Museum. View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Mary Garrison, “The Long Bridge,” Spokane Historical, accessed March 25, 2017, http://spokanehistorical.org/items/show/584.
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