Tickets to the Hawthorne Bridge

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About Hawthorne Bridge

This is one of the busiest bridges of Oregon, with numerous cyclists and vehicles crossing it every day. You can run into some crowds on a nice day or during festivals and other public events. Traffic tends to get less busy in the evenings and early mornings.

The oldest functioning vertical-lift bridge in the US and the oldest highway bridge in Portland, the Hawthorne Bridge was constructed in 1910 to replace the wooden Madison Street Bridge built in 1900. The bridge was named after Dr. James C. Hawthorne, co-founder of the the Oregon Asylum for the Insane on what is now SE Hawthorne Boulevard in the 1850s. 

The bridge relies on a system of counterweights and cables to lift and lower the lift span, like similar bridges. Hawthorne’s operating system is mostly original, while the electrical power and control systems have been upgraded over the years. In 1998-99, a 13-month renovation took place that involved painting, deck replacement, strengthening and upgrading of some of the bridge’s elements.

Some facts about the bridge:

  • Hawthorne hangs 49 feet above the water when the river Willamette is low, so it opens about 200 times per month on average, and as often as 350 times during summer months.
  • Its counterweights weigh 450 tons each and are suspended from two 165 feet high towers.
  • Streetcar tracks used to be on the outer lanes, before being relocated to central lanes. Light rail service did cross the bridge until 1956, but it is now a thing from the past.
  • The bridge was painted black until 1964, when the color was changed to yellow, and later, in 1998-99, to green and red — this paint is supposed to last 30 years. At night, its illumination highlights the colors and the bridge’s distinctive shape.
  • An automated bicycle counter was installed in the bridge in 2012 to great fanfare, being the first device of that kind in the US. In 2013, it counted its millionth cyclist. However, the counter has been out of order for the last few years.

The bridge spans the Willamette River, joining Hawthorne Boulevard and Madison Street.

Yamhill District light rail station is about 10 min walk from the bridge. Buses 6, 10, and 14 stop at SW Madison & 1st and on the east bank of the river, bus number 51 stops at SW 2nd & Taylor.

The bridge also has two dedicated lanes for cyclists and pedestrians. 

The bridge is part of our walking tour of downtown Portland that takes you along the riverside while showing some major points of interest in the city.

FAQ about Hawthorne Bridge

Admission to the bridge is free.

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Hawthorne Bridge Tickets & Tours