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Going back in time: A visit to the Beebe Bridge

This weekend, I attended a high school reunion for my class at Chelan High School in Chelan, Wash., in Central Washington state.

I wanted to visit Beebe Orchards, which is a seven-mile trip down the hill and across the Columbia River from Chelan. It’s where I grew up.

Houses at Beebe IMG_3845

The orchard has been torn out, and is being replaced with million-dollar homes overlooking the Columbia. I wanted to see if the recession is slowing the building of the new houses.

However, I wasn’t able to get there.

Road Closed IMG_3835

An accident occurred on the Beebe Bridge on Aug. 31. A semi tractor-trailer hauling apples veered sharply to the left, and the cab crashed through the rail, plunging 100 feet into the Columbia River.

The driver, Kathleen L. Walker, 48, of Olympia, Wash., was killed.

Bridge Damage IMG_3806

The crash tore off a vertical hanger, one of the supports that hold up the bridge, and heavily damaged two beans, which hold the weight of the bridge structure, reports the article  on The Wenatchee World.

A portion of the bridge deck is noticeably sagging at the location where the truck damaged the bridge rail and steel trusses, according to the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The crash also killed Walker’s husband and co-driver, Peter Wooley, 60, whose body was found downstream five days after the accident.

Two Bridges IMG_3874

So I drove to the bridge to see the damage.

Bridge Damage Close Up IMG_3828

I was allowed to walk onto the bridge and take photos. The bridge will be closed for about two weeks for repairs.

Man Walking IMG_3787

People who live on the Douglas County side of the river and work or go to school in Chelan are walking across the bridge and getting a ride on the other side.

It was about 95 degrees the day I was there. I saw a man and his two young children walking across the bridge. When they reached the other side, they sat in the shade of a road sign waiting for their ride.

In 1959, the department began construction of the current Beebe Bridge, which was opened in June of 1963 for a cost $1.1 million, likely less than the cost of the current repairs, reports the department.

The Beebe Bridge is named for the Beebe Orchard Company, which built the first bridge over the Columbia at Chelan Falls to carry irrigation water to their properties on the east – Douglas County – side of the river in 1919. It also incorporated a wooden deck for cars, which had to pay a toll to cross. It was a one-lane bridge.

When we lived at Beebe Orchards, we had to walk across the bridge twice a day. The wooden bridge wasn’t strong enough to hold the weight of the bus and the school children.

The students were unsupervised. Fortunately, there weren’t any accidents on the bridge.

The bridge made a clickity-clack sound when a car drove over it. It always made me worried about its safety.

Posts Old Bridge IMG_3794

These are the towers from the old bridge.

School children are walking on the Beebe Bridge again now. One of the construction workers said teachers accompany them – one leading them across and another at the end of the line.

So with the reunion and walking again on the Beebe Bridge, it was a big trip down memory lane.

Houses Beebe Condos IMG_3844

After my bridge walk, I drove up the Chelan County side of the river and took photos of the new houses.

It’s certainly disappointing that Douglas County rezoned prime agricultural land and is allowing houses to be built on it.

Copyright 2009, Rita R. Robison, Consumer Specialist

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