In the Naselle/Grays River communities, we have several historical landmarks that attract both local and out of town visitors. These landmarks help to boost our economy as they bring in tourists from all over Oregon, Washington and other states.
One such landmark is the Grays River Covered Bridge. Most covered bridges are no longer standing, but this one remains as a dedicated piece of local history and a popular attraction, as well. The Grays River Covered Bridge is a one-lane bridge in Washington’s western Wahkiakum County.
It was made from local timber in 1905 and is approximately 155 feet in length and 14 feet in width. It has a clearance of approximately 16 feet. It was built so that the local horse and wagon traffic could cross the river. In 1908, the bridge was covered to protect the expensive wooden trusses from weather damage. The roof of the bridge was originally built of cedar siding and tin.
The Grays River Covered Bridge was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1971. In 1988, the bridge received a major restoration and reconstruction. It was in disrepair and at risk of being torn down, so the local Finnish farming and logging families raised funds to restore it. The cost was $295,980 and the new bridge included some steel beams with wood veneer to help it look original. The bridge was rededicated in 1989 for public use.
The bridge has been managed by the Grays River Grange since 2011. It was the site of a very popular Covered Bridge Festival and now is the site for a popular annual 4-H dinner and music event. Tables with tablecloths are set up inside the bridge, local musicians are brought in and patrons are served a scrumptious dinner, usually provided by local farmers. The local 4-H club organizes this event and brings in 4-H students to set up, serve the food and clean up after the event.
Carol Ervest, a local 4-H leader, coordinator of the event, as well as a Grange member, was interviewed about the Covered Bridge dinner. The Wahkiakum 4-H group hosted their 10th event this year with over 100 people in attendance.
Ervest says they make sure that salmon is always on the menu, along with other locally sourced foods. The Deep River Fishery provided the fish this year. Other items included Cougar Gold cheese and pickled beets from a local gardener in Grays River through Glory B Farms. Burkhalter Farm donated butter this year, and whole wheat rolls were provided with flour from Summer Harvest of Rice, Washington. The music was provided by professional violinist Jeffrey Reynolds of Portland. They also held a live auction with Wahkiakum Sheriff Mark Howie serving as auctioneer.
Thousands of dollars are raised annually from this event, and the funds are used to provide scholarships for graduating 4-H members as well as to maintain the bridge by bringing in tourists and sponsors to the area.
The local Grange, a supporter of maintaining the bridge, is a national group established in 1867 with Grange groups in 37 states. This group helps to address the needs of the community. The local group has been involved in maintaining the local cemeteries, restoring the Grays River Covered Bridge and helping to develop the western Wahkiakum water system.
Esther Gregg, a longtime member of the Grays River Grange, says, “The Grange is really a standard bearer, and for years and years we have tried to live up to that. The Grange is a way to address the needs of the community. Many big ideas have started right here in this building.”
Krist Novoselic, Master of the Grays River Grange No. 124, adds, “I try to be positive and talk about ideas. Democracy is everybody’s business.”
Novoselic is a famous bass player and co-founder of the band Nirvana. He lives in Deep River now and is a strong advocate for preserving and maintaining local landmarks. He supports the maintenance of the Grays River Covered Bridge and has a great deal of respect for people, the environment and the small communities of Naselle, Deep River, Grays River and Rosburg. He and fellow Grange Hall members believe in maintaining and supporting all historical landmarks. Novoselic has been a member of the Grange Hall since 2003 and enjoys staying connected with community. “It’s really about kindness,” explains Novoselic.
The Grange Hall has a mission to promote positive changes. Novoselic, Robert Pyle and Esther Gregg gave a presentation on stage at the local Wahkiakum County Fair to introduce the Grays River Grange and discuss its history with the community.
The Grays River Covered Bridge continues to be an important landmark in our community and will continue to serve as a treasured part of the history of Grays River, Washington.