There is no questioning that the Tacoma Narrows Bridge is an icon of the South Sound. And while it certainly holds a prominent spot in the scenery, it’s not the only bridge that makes up the unique landscape of the area. In fact, the landscape is scattered with bridges of all shapes, designs and sizes. Head to downtown Tacoma, University Place and other towns and cities on this tour of South Sound’s best bridges, from historic to artistic, from pedestrian-only to heavily car trafficked.
The most iconic, legendary bridge of the South Sound is undoubtedly the Tacoma Narrows bridge. It is a huge part of the area’s history and landscape. The famous collapse of the original structure back in 1940 – known as Galloping Gertie – is a story known to most. It was reconstructed 10 years later, and most recently a second bridge was erected alongside the first to ease traffic loads. These two twin suspension bridges carry travelers across the Tacoma Narrows strait, connecting the city of Tacoma with the Kitsap Peninsula. You can read more about the history of this iconic bridge here.
If you are looking to get an up-close experience with the Tacoma Narrows, consider crossing by foot or by bike. At its highest point, the bridge is 200 feet above the water, making for stunning views. Read more about walking, running or biking across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge here. There are also plenty of spots to see the bridge from afar. Try heading to Titlow Park, south of the bridge on the water, for a great view, or take the 5 Mile Drive at Point Defiance and stop at the Narrows Viewpoint for a look at the bridge in the distance.
Chihuly Bridge of Glass
The City of Tacoma partnered with Tacoma’s famous Museum of Glass to bring one of the most unique and artistic bridges to the city. The Chihuly Bridge of Glass is now embedded in the skyline and culture of Tacoma, and has become a hotspot for tourists and locals alike. This 500-foot-long pedestrian bridge across the freeway transports you from the Washington State History Museum and Union Station to the Foss Waterway and the Museum of Glass. The bridge itself was designed by local glass artist Dale Chihuly, along with same architect who designed the Washington State History Museum.
A walk across the Bridge of Glass never disappoints, as you’ll get up close to a large collection of stunningly displayed handblown glass art pieces. You can’t miss the Crystal Towers, two tall stacks of illuminated blue crystal forms; the Venetian Wall, a large wall showcasing eclectic sculptures from Chihuly; or the Seaform Pavilion, a glowing, vibrant ceiling filled with more than 2,000 suspended blown glass pieces.
Murray Morgan Bridge
The Murray Morgan Bridge, also known as the 11th Street Bridge, is a historic piece of the Tacoma landscape. It was originally built in 1913. After a period of closure starting in 2007 and a near teardown, the City of Tacoma took on a large reconstruction project to update the bridge, allowing it to reopen in 2013. It connects Tacoma’s downtown to the tide flats across the Foss Waterway. This historic bridge features a vertical lift design to allow water traffic to pass underneath. Fortunately, the rehabilitation project preserved most of the bridge’s historic character, allowing it to remain a landmark. Make sure to check out the Murray Morgan Bridge at night, as it’s illuminated in a spectacular way to highlight its industrial character.
East 21st Street Bridge
When looking out across Tacoma’s downtown, you are sure to see the East 21st Street Bridge, a structure that stands out with its 180-foot tall towers and long, white cables. It’s a cable-stayed suspension bridge spanning the Foss Waterway, carrying the traffic of SR 509. The structure of the bridge creates a stunning visual of geometry against a backdrop of city buildings, views of the Puget Sound or the Tacoma Dome, depending on where you look.
Chamber’s Bay Pedestrian Bridge
A trip out to University Place’s Chambers Bay Golf Course is always worth the beautiful, expansive views across the Sound. There’s a nice trail system here as part of Chambers Creek Regional Park, featuring one of the best three-mile paved walks in the area. Plus, there’s a great pedestrian bridge here, passing over the train tracks. It leads from the Central Meadows park area over the railroad, landing you right on a little stretch of rocky, Pacific Northwest-style beach. Skip some rocks, bask in the sun on a sunny day or look for shells while you are there. There’s also a nice overlook if you walk all the way to the end of the bridge, which puts you right over the waves during high tide.
East 34th Street Bridge
Constructed in 1937, the East 34th Street Bridge is registered with the U. S. National Register of Historic Places. It’s large arch spans across many lanes of traffic near a large intersection of freeway. Located up on the southeast hill of Tacoma, a look north from the bridge will give you a good vantage point to see the layout of Tacoma’s downtown and neighboring tide flats. The view’s especially fun at night, allowing you to look down on the city lights.