The covered bridges of Cottage Grove, Oregon

Massive timbers were used in most covered bridge constructions
Massive timbers were used in most covered bridge constructions

Cottage Grove has the distinction of being the “Covered Bridge Capital of Oregon.” ! Our travellers, John & Doreen search out the best in this article.

… Pause and smell the roses, not the fumes!
Article and Photos by John and Doreen Berg

Are you heading south on Interstate 5 and wishing there was an alternate to an overnight stay in chain motel/hotel, having an evening dinner and rising to an early alarm to hit the pavement for another tedious day of driving? This year, on our annual trip to Sacramento, we had been considering venturing off the beaten path, thus making our drive more of an exploratory trip – but our selections usually involved considerable detours to and from I-5. This time we discovered the perfect stopover location, Cottage Grove!

This trip to Sacramento to visit our brother-in-law was significantly different from previous years. On “Travel Zoo” Doreen discovered a “Dinner Package Special” being offered by Village Green Resort and Gardens. The dinner package included two night’s accommodation, breakfasts and a dinner for two in their restaurant with a bottle of complimentary wine (see following “General Information” for details.)

Chamber's Covered Railway Bridge
Chamber’s Covered Railway Bridge

Village Green is located approximately 40 kilometers (25 miles) south of Eugene, Oregon in the heritage town of Cottage Grove. After driving eight or nine hours it was the perfect stop-over spot for us to enjoy the countryside and relax before continuing to our final destination- Sacramento.

Cottage Grove bills itself as a friendly recreational, family oriented small town. For us the town added interest to an otherwise predictable drive. Cottage Grove is small enough to be able to wander the local antique shops, view hand painted murals and examine intact collections of historic 20th century buildings. And, of course, dine at local restaurants to sample the local cuisine. The first evening witnessed us dining at Stacy’s Covered Bridge Restaurant marvelling over their cedar plank salmon special.

The town also boasts a 17 mile dedicated paved bike trail. Unfortunately due to the lateness of the season, the resort’s bikes were stored and the local bike shop was all booked up. The trail sections we saw from the road looked impressive. Next time!

Silk Creek flowing through Cottage Grove
Silk Creek flowing through Cottage Grove

Cottage Grove has the distinction of being the “Covered Bridge Capital of Oregon.” The seven restored covered bridges do verify the town’s claim, as this is the largest number in any town in Lane County! The bridges were built between 1900 and 1925, the region’s heyday for construction and farming. From local sawmills, readily available timber was used and house-like structures were built over the bridges to prolong the bridges’ life spans. The first morning of our stay we followed a detailed easy-to-follow map that was part of our resort package. The roads we drove were paved and the traffic was sparse with the fall colours and landscapes creating a magical atmosphere as we visited and photographed the bridges.

Our lunch stop was at Torero’s Mexican Restaurant, followed by a wander through the local historical business area. Then, we again consulted our tourist map and drove River Row Road to the Brice Creek Trailhead beginning at Cedar Creek Camp Site. After a short detour due to a wrong turn, we found our way and started our hike.

Our plan was to hike to a set of falls. However, presented with a fork in the trail we elected to hike left while we should have gone right. We missed the falls but the hike was enjoyable and scenic, plus providing needed exercise.

Swinging Bridge The current bridge is at least the 4th on the site.
Swinging Bridge The current bridge is at least the 4th on the site.

That evening in the Village Green Restaurant, we enjoyed our complimentary dinner complete with a bottle of wine. I selected a trout dish special and Doreen chose the salmon plate. Both selections were delicious and cleverly presented. After our meal a short stroll was in order prior to retiring for the evening and preparing for tomorrow’s road journey.

Cottage Grove is favourably located to allow us to divide our 1500 kilometer drive into two days driving, with a pause for exploration. The historic town is situated close to the freeway making for an easy exit and return. Yet, only a short drive from I-5 and you encounter the town surrounded by rolling pastures, lakes and beautiful forests. We left Village Green refreshed and with an appreciation and better understanding of the county’s environment and culture. On our next drive south we plan to pause at Cottage Grove to further explore the surrounding countryside and ride the bike trail!

If you go:

Resort

Village Green Resort and Gardens: 725 Row River Road, Cottage Grove, Oregon, 97424. Web: www.villagegreenresortandgardens.com. Telephone: (541) 942-2491 or (800) 343-7666. Wi-Fi is in all rooms.

Our deluxe room sported a fireplace plus T.V., fridge and microwave. A set of patio doors led to a small private patio area. Excellent decor and king size bed.

Our deluxe room complete with my foot!
Our deluxe room complete with my foot!

The resort offers a variety of special packages. Our Dinner Package Special included a dinner with wine and two nights’ accommodation in a deluxe room and breakfasts. At check-in we were presented with an information package about restaurants, local maps, entertainment and coupons for a wine tour as there are many successful wineries in the region. The resort features large gardens of flora, ideal for wandering through. We felt that the package special was an excellent value as the dinner for tipping purposes was valued at $62 US. The total package cost $139

Restaurants

Torero’s Family Mexican Restaurant

1205 Highway 99 North, Cottage Grove, Oregon. Phone: (541) 942-1155
Located in a small shopping mall. Good ambiance and the Mexican lunch was tasty plus pleasant prompt service. Reasonably priced.

Stacy’s Covered Bridge Restaurant

401 E. Main Street, Cottage Grove, Oregon, 97424. Phone: (541) 767-0320
Located directly across from the police station. Stacy’s is an excellent restaurant. We ordered the day’s special, salmon cooked on a cedar plank. It was one of the most delicious salmon meals we’ve enjoyed. The server was courteous and attentive. There’s also a bar area for lighter snacks. Our meal including drinks and tip was $61. US

Wal-Mart:

located next to Village Green Resort just off Row River Road. The supermarket is a good place to stock up on lunch provisions for the next day’s travel.

Travel Zoo:

www.travelzoo.com

Travelzoo is a publishing company listing travel, entertainment and local deals. The company evaluates deals to judge their value. On the company’s web site they publish a weekly top 20 selections that can be sent to your e-mail. We’ve taken advantage of offers and have been extremely pleased with the results.

Village Green Resort's garden
Village Green Resort’s garden

You might find that using a pre-established route helpful. If so, visit Travel Oregon’s helpful self-guided route: Cottage Grove Covered Bridge Tour Route

Here’s a handy list of all of the covered bridges in the area:
1) Centennial Bridge – reconstructed in 1977
2) Swinging Bridge – built for foot and bicycle traffic
3) Chambers Bridge – built in 1925 and restored in 2011 – employed by a timber company as a train bridge.
4) Mosby Creek Bridge – 1920 and restored in 1990 – oldest bridge and open to traffic
5) Stewart Bridge – 1930 Restored in 1996.- deep water below for swimming
6) Dorena Bridge 1949 – now closed to traffic
7) Currin Bridge – 1925 (replaced an earlier bridge built in 1883) – Restored 1995.

CHECK OUT JOHN AND DOREEN’S TRAVEL BLOG!