Hood Canal Bridge

Un-Cruise Adventures ship the Wilderness Adventurer

Wilderness Adventurer in Hood Canal on a foggy, rainy day

When the Wilderness Adventurer headed to Hoodsport as the first stop of the Un-Cruise Adventures Washington Coastal cruise, I had hoped to have a chance to see the Hood Canal Bridge from a boat’s point of view.  It’s a pretty interesting bridge.

Hood Canal Bridge

Hood Canal Bridge looking west from the Kitsap Peninsula side

Most draw bridges lift upward to let boats pass through.  A few turn sideways to make an opening.  In a rather unique fashion, the Hood Canal bridge does neither.  It withdraws part of the bridge into itself, underneath the other layer.

I found a brief video on the state DOT site, which is definitely worth the 15 seconds or so it takes to watch it.  Unfortunately they have no embed code so the best I could do is this link:

Hood Canal bridge opens

It shows the bridge raising up and the road sliding under.

Hood Canal Bridge

Hood Canal bridge looking east from the Olympic Peninsula side

When boats go through, the first cars in line stop on the bridge.  I’ve never been close enough to the front of the line to get out and see if you could see anything when the bridge opens though.  Just close enough to see the boat approach on one side of the bridge and disappear behind the waiting cars and then emerge on the other.  You wouldn’t get to see the bridge move from the boat since it opens before the boat gets there, but could still see what the bridge looks like from water level while passing through.  It’s usually around a 20 minute wait for the cars.  When hurrying to any of the ferry docks on the other side waiting for the bridge can mean missing your intended ferry and taking a later boat.

navy sub at hood canal bridge

Navy sub USS Ohio crossing through the Hood Canal Bridge, photo courtesy of Wikipedia

When a navy submarine transits the canal, no bridge travelers see it go through.  Police guard both ends and stop all cars before they get to the bridge.  Even if you are stopped near enough to the bridge to walk to it, nobody is allowed on it or close enough to it to see anything.  For some reason the submarines always go through on the surface instead of silently slipping through in the depths of the water where nobody would ever know they were there.  Waiting for a sub to go through takes a long time. The time I got stopped for one it took at least an hour.

Funny how when a bridge is open it is closed and when it is closed it is open.  At least from the point of view of anyone traveling in a car.

While on the Wilderness Adventurer we saw a sub on the surface in the distance, probably headed to the canal since they have a base there.  From a distance is all anyone sees it though.  It had an escort of navy boats that keep curious onlookers away.

Unfortunately we passed through the Hood Canal Bridge in the middle of the night in both directions on the Wilderness Adventurer, so only the captain (or whomever was at the helm) and possibly night shift crew had an opportunity to see anything, if indeed they could see it in the dark.

The Hood Canal Bridge opened in 1961 as the world’s first floating bridge over salt water, to some controversy as to whether the design could hold up to the tides and storms sure to batter the 3rd longest bridge on the planet.

sinking bridge

hood canal bridge collapsed in a storm in 1979

Proving their worries, the western pontoons sank in a severe 1979 storm.  It took until 1982 to rebuild, a sturdier bridge this time with newer technology and stronger anchors.  The state had to open an old ferry run that had closed when the bridge first opened to keep traffic flowing for the several years it took to rebuild.  From 2003 to 2009 the eastern half got rebuilt so now the entire bridge has better technology and sturdier anchorage than the original.  Its actual name is the William A. Bugge Bridge, but if anyone called it that nobody would have a clue which bridge they meant.  Other than picturing the bridge crawling with bugs named William, the name is not likely to stick in anyone’s brain.

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About LBcruiseshipblogger

MyCruiseStories blog tells stories about adventures in cruising on ships big and small. Things to do onboard and in port. Anything connected to cruising. Also food, travel, recipes, towel animals, and the occasional random blog.
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9 Responses to Hood Canal Bridge

  1. Gwynn Rogers says:

    Plus, for those of us that live on the Kitsap Peninsula, the bridge will be undergoing testing and being worked on starting Monday, September 22 for two weeks. This means the bridge will be opened frequently, so make sure you check with WSDOT before heading over the bridge as you may have a LONG wait.

    I remember when the bridge sunk in the 1979 storm as I had just moved back to the NW from California. I also had to claim my fir tree off my neighbor’s house. That wind storm was a DILLY! Thanks for the interesting history. If you are on this side of the water sometime and interested in meeting, let me know.

  2. Art Downing says:

    Every time I read one of your blogs about something in Washington I learn something new about my home state. I guess this must be because I have never really lived there since 1963.

  3. Chris Beath says:

    That is a unique opening for the bridge. I didn’t know it did that.

  4. The production involving that bridge would bring out the Type A in my personality. I agree that it is an interesting bridge, but I am very glad that it’s in Washington State and nowhere near New York City.

    • Washington State has a long history of collapsing bridges with 70 recorded bridge failures between 1923 and 1998 and more since then. Besides the Hood Canal bridge, major bridge collapses include the infamous Galloping Gertie (AKA Tacoma Narrows Bridge) Nov 7, 1940, which went down in the wind and still serves as an example of how not to build a bridge. The current bridges at the Tacoma Narrows are much sturdier. Nov 25 1990 brought about the sinking of the Lake Washington Floating bridge in a storm – due to construction crews doing bridge repair having left pontoons open. The most recent bridge collapse occurred on I-5, the main north-south route through the state just last year when a truck hit the side of the Skagit River Bridge at Mount Vernon and brought it down on May 23, 2013.

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