Mountain Loop bridge to recreation is restored

DARRINGTON — For people here, the White Chuck Bridge used to lead to a campground that for many was a summer home away from home.

In the fall of 2003, severe flooding washed out the campground and the bridge, and swept away a lot of memories, Darrington Mayor Joyce Jones said.

Last Thursday, Jones and few dozen others huddled together in the rain to celebrate the opening of the new White Chuck Bridge, which restores access to the Mount Baker-­Snoqualmie National Forest, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Renee Bodine said.

“The area was a sentimental place for many people in town. We camped, picnicked, fished and went for drives there,” Jones said. “The access to the forest also brings people to Darrington and helps our small economy.”

Jones and others hope that someday the campground can be rebuilt as well. For now, though, they are pleased with the new bridge.

“It’s a beautiful bridge, with decorative facing on its corners. It’s a nice design, it blends in with rock face of the shoreline and it adds to the beauty of the area,” Jones said. “We’re glad that the Forest Service and federal highway people considered it a worthwhile project.”

The replacement bridge is a single-span, single-lane bridge about 16 feet wide and about 200 feet downstream from the bridge that washed out. It cost about $3 million to build.

Located about eight miles southeast of Darrington off the Mountain Loop Highway on Forest Service Road 22, the bridge spans the White Chuck River. It provides access to the public boat launch on the north side of the river, to the Gold Mountain area and creates a loop to the Sauk Prairie Road, Bodine said.

It wasn’t an easy bridge to build, Bodine said.

Designers and construction workers had to make design adjustments when they discovered there wasn’t enough bedrock on the other side of the river to tie down the bridge, and additional alterations were needed when the river changed course, Bodine said.

However, the Federal Highway Administration and the Forest Service finished work by the completion date and under budget, said Clara Conner, a highway administration engineer.

Conner, Jones, Darrington District Ranger Peter Forbes and Brenda White from U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen’s office cut the ribbon stretching across the bridge and a wet crowd applauded Thursday.

Forbes said he was surprised how many people attended the ceremony in the rain and during a flood watch.

“It shows how much people appreciate the national forest. They want to come out and enjoy all of this beauty, and now it is accessible for all,” Forbes said.

The national forest received a record amount of rainfall in October 2003, with as much as 10 inches of rain falling in the higher elevations during a 24-hour period. Sediment, erosion and uprooted trees flowing in the Sauk River system, including the White Chuck, caused flood damage throughout the Darrington area.

Reporter Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427 or

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