Hey, Palmer Bear here. Today we are headed out towards Applegate Lake in southern Oregon to check out a beautiful historical gem called McKee Bridge. This place is fascinating as well as the perfect place for some kid-sized fun.
I know, when most people think of Oregon they figure we all ride horses pulling covered wagons across the Oregon Trail. Or maybe you think we are all good swimmers because this is the state where it always rains. Okay, I forgive. Portland is pretty wet, but I am in southern Oregon and it’s pretty nice.
For those not familiar with the area, Oregon is in the heart of the Pacific Northwest known for wilderness, outdoor recreation, and Bigfoot. It is a great place to play, especially for us bears. My home is in the area of the forest called Medford which is the biggest town in southern Oregon. The city has a population of over 80,000 which is a few too many people for me, but it is forgiven because within an hour drive there are at least three rivers, over ten lakes, and countless places to explore. We are gonna have a lot of fun!!
I am riding on the dashboard because Driver decided to bring Girlie, his co-pilot, so I decided to be a gentleman and let her have my seat. It is another hot summer in Oregon so traveling up into the mountains was a perfect way to cool off. The skies are blue with a few stubborn clouds and my bum is staying cool near the air conditioning vent.
One of the many great things about Oregon is the scenery. No matter what time of year you are out and about there are green trees. There is lots of plant life and animal life and birds to chase. Sounds like a great day for a picnic, and McKee Bridge on the Applegate River is a beautiful spot to do just that.
So our course is set to head west. From downtown Medford, we take the highway out to Jacksonville (an awesome little town you’ll hear more about later). Making a left at Ruch, a town that is barely a wide spot in the road, and we head out towards Applegate Lake. The drive is relaxing and scenic, following along the Applegate River and winding through trees and farmland. I focused on the road ahead, keeping an eye out for deer. We came across a few families of them and Driver had to slow down so they could cross the road. A little over 20 miles out and on the left is McKee Bridge.
Of course, the first thing I did was hop out of the van and dash over to pose on the sign. The air is so crisp and clean here, the first thing you enjoy is a nice, deep breath. All the tall fir and pine trees nearby bring a peaceful hush to the area. There is a cool crunchy sound when you walk on the pine needle ground cover too. No, I did not feel it cuz Driver carries me. After all, I am just a little bear! But he seemed to appreciate it.
McKee Bridge is a quaint covered bridge built in 1917 and, until 1919, it was used as a rest stop halfway between Jacksonville and Blue Ledge Copper Mine. The bridge was named after Adelbert “Deb” McKee who donated the land. The bridge was used up until 1956 for mining and logging until the bridge was deemed unsafe for traffic.
This was actually my second visit to McKee Bridge. My first was back in 2012 when they were still working on it. But guess what?? It is done. You can actually walk all the way across it, look out the windows at the Applegate River and see the cool old wood and stuff. They even have these boards where you can write your name so no one graffitis the rest of the bridge. Check out the difference between my two visits for yourself.
The bridge was closed for three years because of some rot and issues with the roof but was reopened in June of 2015. Of course, I had to come to check it out so I could show you! It is pretty fun to explore the oldest and longest covered bridge in Jackson County. Check out the improvements:
And once you have had some fun exploring that is only the beginning!! Just below the historical bridge is the cozy, well-groomed McKee Bridge picnic area nestled in the trees. You will find picnic benches and barbecue areas, as well as a bathroom and plenty of parking.
Such a picture perfect area to swim, fish or devour a delicious lunch. Now I know, being a bear, you are expecting me to say that I spent the afternoon running around stealing other people’s picnic baskets but I was very well behaved.
While the grownups are getting the food ready there is more fun for us small people. First, there is a small irrigation canal which runs right next to the river with a small bridge going across it. Try standing on the bridge and throwing sticks in the water, watching them float under the bridge and out the other side.
Once the food settles, if you can wait that long, is the best part of all. Walk across the bridge and down some stone steps for the best treat of all. McKee Bridge overlooks a fantastic family swim area. There is a little bit of beach for sunning and a good-sized shallow area for younger kiddos.
Older and more adventurous swimmers can paddle across the river to the other side. The current is easy and the water is deep. On the far bank is a tall rock to jump off of and a rope swing. There are even a couple riffles up and downstream a little for the fisher in the family.
The water is clear and cold, but not so cold that it makes your paws hurt. There are places to wade and places to dig. This is the perfect day-trip getaway which has something for the whole family. Bring your blankets, sunscreen, floaties, and plenty of food because you will want to be here all day.
I hope you enjoyed this bears-eye view of McKee Bridge, an awesome historical picnic area to visit. For more pictures or just to say hello, please find me on Facebook. Look for Palmer Bear. As for me, I am off to a new adventure so I will be checking in again soon. Remember, there is always so much fun around you if you just take the time to explore. Never be bored!