Nisqually Historic Suspension Bridge

Wooden suspension bridge with steel cable supports crosses over the Nisqually river.
Wooden suspension bridge with steel cable supports crosses over the Nisqually River.

NPS/M. Meitle Photo

Quick Facts
The oldest wooden suspension bridge still in use by the National Park Service. Contributes to the Mount Rainier National Historic Landmark District.
National Historic Landmark

Historical/Interpretive Information/Exhibits

Season: Year-Round

The Nisqually Suspension Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the national park system and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Longmire Historic District. Like other structures in the Longmire Historic District, it is an example of “NPS rustic” architecture, a design philosophy that attempts to make park buildings appear as if they belong in the natural spaces where they were built.

The first light weight suspension bridge was installed across the Nisqually River at this site in 1911. This “pony bridge” quickly became outdated as more of the visitors to the park began to travel by automobile. When superintendent O. A. Tomlinson decided to build a new car-friendly campground on the south bank of the river in the 1920s, a new bridge was needed to support the increased traffic and weight.

The Longmire location was so remote, the National Park Service received only one bid for the construction of the new Nisqually Bridge. Monson-Trierweiler Co. out of Portland, Oregon, proposed a design that used massive locally sourced vertical logs as suspension supports. A hard winter stretched the construction time to over seven months. Once the bridge was finally completed in 1924 it took over a year to build the Longmire Campground on the opposite bank. The new bridge was first open to public in August 1925 and praised as an example of “NPS rustic” architecture.

The original logs were pretty but precarious and the log supports were carefully updated with dimensional timber towers in 1952. This work was necessary because of heavier vehicles, increasing use, and changing bridge safety standards across the country. The Nisqually Suspension Bridge is considered the oldest vehicle suspension bridge in the National Park Service because most of its original form has been retained. The majority of the bridge’s timber and hardware was sorted, saved, and reintegrated during the construction in 1952. The only other major change to the bridge design is the addition of a second, lower safety railing.

The Nisqually Suspension Bridge remains in use but doesn’t see as much traffic as it once did. The road continues to provide access to the Longmire Community Building and the renamed Longmire Stewardship Campground, but these facilities are closed to the public and used only by park volunteers and researchers who contribute to the mission of the National Park Service. With this gentle usage and rigorous upkeep, the bridge can be expected to be in service for decades to come.

To visit this bridge first go to the Longmire Historic district 12 miles from the southwest Nisqually Entrance. There is no parking at the Nisqually Suspension Bridge, so it is best to find parking at Longmire and continue on foot. The bridge is located less than a quarter of a mile past the Longmire Administrative Building. There is an “S” bend in the road and a small incline before the bridge. Use caution while walking as vehicles share the road. It is also possible to view the Nisqually Suspension Bridge by driving across it. The road is a dead-end but there is space to turn a vehicle around at the Longmire Community Building one-half mile past the bridge.

Mount Rainier National Park

Last updated: January 11, 2024