PDX: My Ongoing Obsession with the Fremont Bridge

April 28, 2008

Abstract Fremont Bridge

If I could draw or paint or “do art” in some fashion it would probably mostly consist of a weird and concerning homage shrine to Portland’s Fremont Bridge, which, for some reason, I find to be pretty much the best thing I’ve ever seen.

The obsession started sometime in my late teens. The college years, the wandering, lone-wolf, mostly-lonely years wherein I had time to brood and draw bad sketches in black-bound notebooks. I started noticing the Fremont was easy to draw, that double bounce swoop. Plus, it was appealing. I liked standing underneath it. In middle school my marching band practiced under its east flanks. In the awful 2001-2002 times, when breathing even seemed a burden, I spent time under its left flanks taking photos.

From Bridge Pedal/Walk 2004

Then I resorted to the Internet, which usually serves as a good gateway from “interest” to “stalking/obsession.” Fortunately the bridge is inanimate and has so far been kind enough not to press charges.

Why do I like it?

  1. It’s very epic in proportion. It soars without effort.
  2. It’s modernistic and unemphatic.
  3. It has calming lines like Scandinavian furniture.
  4. It’s unapologetic about its utility. It puts me in mind of Bauhaus in that sense.
  5. Peregrine falcons nest atop it.

Cloud Four\'s view includes the Fremont
From work, at Cloud Four, all I have to do is swivel around in my chair to see the Fremont

Here is some trivia:

  • It came into being in 1973, yes, before I was born. At the time they lifted the center span, it was the heaviest thing that had ever been lifted, ever. It was in the Guinness Book of World Records.
  • Last time I’d looked, it was the longest tied-arch bridge in the world. Now it’s second to a bridge across the Yangtze (dang you China!). It is the biggest bridge in Oregon, which is likely not surprising.
  • Its noticeable design was reactionary to the humdrum, un-fun-utilitarian Marquam Bridge (I-405 bridge over the Willamette River).
  • It’s 381 feet high. Yep, that will likely kill you, with the jumping.

Fremont Bridge by SamGrover
Fremont bridge + Boats + Birds originally uploaded by Samgrover

How do you feel about the Fremont? In terms of Portland bridges, where does it fall for you?


  1. autumn says:

    i’m fond of the warren-like element of the undercarriage. it always seemed to me a realm unto itself.

    as a side note: it came in a very strong 2nd in the “favorite portland bridge” survey

  2. Aileen says:

    The Fremont is definitely the most entertaining bridge to drive across. Driving from the east to west side affords an expansive view of the Pearl district and west hills and always gives me that “wow, I live in a real city” feeling.

    But, I have to say for looks, the St Johns bridge does it for me. The Hawthorne is nice too, because it seems designed for pedestrians and bikes, with cars being an afterthought. Also, I’m just waiting for the Sellwood bridge to collapse.

  3. doug says:

    Okay, I’ve finally been smoked out of lurker-stan. The Fremont Bridge is a particular love of mine as well. Effortlessly my favorite bridge in Portland.

    I have a photo on my wall of Portland taken by a friend that most people, I think, would find actively ugly. It’s taken somewhere in inner southeast, on the top of a building. The top third is cloudy sky, the bottow two-thirds are a sea of warehouses and similar buildings. And rising out of that sea, of course: The Fremont Bridge.

    Fuck, now I’m missing Portland hardcore.

  4. Sister says:

    I’d like the Fremont more except from elementary school to the present day, I have recurring nightmares about driving off of it (usually in a school bus), where the top deck curves into 405 – you just keep driving straight and then there’s the sickening plunge. It’s definitely not a bridge for people who are afraid of heights… but then again, most bridges aren’t.

Related Posts

Scipio the Computer has deemed that these might be similar in content!
Wonderful games with Caslon