Tag Archives: East to Mount Rainier

Canoes to Covered Bridges – Crossing the Old Nisqually

Photo above courtesy of Martin Burwash, from the Eatonville to Rainier website (eatonvilletorainier.com).

The 81 mile long Nisqually River starts as a tumbling, rocky stream off the the end of Mt. Rainier’s Nisqually Glacier, as shown here:

Imagine taking this car on this road to see the Nisqually Glacier and Mt. Rainier, back in those days.  Look at the bridge they just crossed!

1926 nisqually glacier postcard

After flowing west to today’s quaint, quirky, and cool Elbe, the river creates Thurston County’s east border with Pierce County.  It then travels northwest until it  flows into the Puget Sound.

There are now two easy ways to cross the Nisqually.  Upriver about twelve miles west of Mt. Rainier Park’s Nisqually Entrance, Highway 7’s Elbe Bridge crosses the river at the boundary of Lewis and Pierce Counties.

Interstate 5 crosses the Nisqually where it joins Puget Sound, at the Nisqually Estuary.

Crossing the Nisqually in the Old Days

Crossing the Nisqually River in the days before Highway 7 and Interstate 5 was quite an adventure!

This 1905 photo shows Sam P’yelo of the Nisqually Tribe canoeing in the Nisqually River.

Photo from the University of Washington website.
Photo from the University of Washington website.

Early European settlers built the first bridge across the Nisqually at Elbe in 1898.

Photo courtesy of Russell Sachs, from the Eatonville to Rainier website.
Photo courtesy of Russell Sachs, from the Eatonville to Rainier website.

Here is the same 1898 bridge.  This bridge is long gone–they weren’t built to last.

Photo courtesy of Pat Van Eaton, from the Eatonville to Rainier website.
Photo courtesy of Pat Van Eaton, from the Eatonville to Rainier website.

Logging operations began in earnest near Elbe at the beginning of the 20th century, with the building of the first sawmill.  Early railroads transported the harvested timber. Continue reading Canoes to Covered Bridges – Crossing the Old Nisqually