The Oak Creek Covered Bridge: A secret scenic getaway exists not far from campus

Outside the Oak Creek Covered Bridge, also known as the Irish Bend Covered Bridge, in Corvallis Oregon on Oct.12.
Outside the Oak Creek Covered Bridge, also known as the Irish Bend Covered Bridge, in Corvallis Oregon on Oct.12.
Morgan Berryman, OMN Photographer

Chances are, if you’re an Oregon State University student, you’ve been on Campus Way, the northernmost street that runs through campus, but if you venture further, you’ll find a covered bridge. 

The familiar close quarters of brick buildings and bustling students turn into open, sprawling livestock fields with a gorgeous view of the hills around Corvallis. The sidewalk ends, and you may see cows, wildflowers, or birdhouses atop the fences. 

The road continues, but most non-agriculture students probably don’t have to go any further west to get to their classes.

But what happens if you follow that road out past the greenhouses and agriculture buildings?

This is the Oak Creek covered bridge, formerly the Irish Bend Covered Bridge. 

It’s tall, painted white on the outside, with dark wood beams on the inside and a shingled roof. The wide wooden floorboards thump as you walk across; if you peek over the side, you can see the creek below. 

On the left as you enter from the direction of campus is a list of donors. When the bridge was originally built in 1954, it crossed the Willamette Slough, 15 miles outside of Corvallis. Its use became obsolete over time, and eventually it was moved to its current location. 

Relocation cost around $60,000; in addition, the bridge needed some structural replacements, so a new foundation and support beams were donated by local establishments. It was repaired and repainted in 2020. 

The trail this bridge serves is a place of recreation, for people to get some exercise and fresh air. The scenery feels rural, but it’s easy to access from campus. It’s not uncommon to see someone on a bike or walking their dog. Occasionally you’ll find a class studying the area. 

Zoë Little, a fourth-year in environmental science, once ventured out there with a biology lab to conduct a field study. 

“We were doing a study on species richness and how invasive species directly affect species richness and diversity within a certain population,” said Little. “We were all doing different surveys from varying lengths from the water.” 

The Oak Creek watershed is often used as an outdoor lab for OSU students, and according to Little, the Oak Creek near and under the bridge is a great place to conduct that study. 

If you cross the bridge and continue down the footpath, you’ll find the Benton County Fairgrounds on the other side of 53rd St.

Head on past the fairgrounds and you’ll reach Bald Hill Natural Area, another great place to spend some time outdoors. But if that’s too much, you can still enjoy nature right next to campus. 

Oregon boasts 50 historic covered bridges, including Oak Creek Covered Bridge, making it the largest collection of them remaining in the western region of the United States.

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