The Bridge

It’s hard to imagine Deception Pass without the bridge.  But until 1935, the gap between Fidalgo Island and Whidbey Island could only be crossed by boat.

From 1924 until the completion of the bridge, a small ferry called the Deception Pass ran between Yokeko Point and Hoypus Point.  The ferry was owned and operated by Berte Olson, who was the first female ferry captain in the state of Washington.

Service on the small boat was, by most accounts, infrequent and the route was often canceled due to turbulent water conditions.  Patrons were able to summon the ferry by hitting an old saw with a mallet.  Fares were 50 cents for a car and driver, and 75 cents for larger vehicles.

Although she was barely 5 feet tall, Berte Olson was a force to be reckoned with.  To many she was known as “Little, but Oh My!”  For many years, Olson fought to prevent the construction of the bridge, even persuading Governor Ronald Hartley to veto a bill funding the construction of the bridge that had passed the state legislature unanimously.

Whidbey Island residents had called for the construction of a bridge to Fidalgo Island since the 1890s.  G. W. Morse, a local boat captain and state legislator, spent decades in the early 1900s unsuccessfully lobbying the state legislature to fund the construction of a bridge.  After years of broken promises and two vetoes, a bill was finally passed and construction of the bridge began in August of 1934.

The Wallace Bridge and Structural Company was hired to build the two span bridge at a cost of $420,000.  Much of the labor was done by local out-of-work farmers who did helped build the approaches and did concrete work.  Young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps also assisted with the approach routes, using dynamite to blast through the rock on both sides.  Construction took just under 12 months.  The bridge was completed on July 25th and dedicated on July 31st, 1935.  Construction would have been completed a day earlier, but when it came time to lower the final section, it didn’t fit.  An engineer quickly realized that the hot summer weather had caused the steel to expand.  At 4 a.m. the steel had cooled and the last piece was lowered into place.

A year before the bridge was built, local writer George Albert Kellogg had this to say about the possible effects of a future bridge:

“What will become, I wonder, of the mystery, the shaded quiet, and age-old charm of those deep swirling waters and the shores that confine them? The lone ferry, chugging in occasional passage; that sense of detachment from a prosaic world when once you’ve gotten across to the island?

 “Do you suppose the island roads, congested with traffic, will invite the outdoor advertising companies to erect their billboards? Will these winding highways of dignified rural beauty end in a sacrifice to the brazenly flaunted values of clothing, cigarettes, and gasoline?”

Facts about the Bridge

  • Total length: 1,487 feet (Canoe Pass span: 511 feet, Deception Pass Span: 976 feet)
  • Road width: 22 feet
  • Sidewalk width: 3 feet each side
  • Height: approximately 180 feet from the water (depending on tides)
  • Style: cantilever
  • Over 1,500 tons of steel were used to construct the two spans
  • Roughly 15,000 cars cross the bridge each day


More Info

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This web site is maintained for the Deception Pass Park Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. It is NOT supported by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, the agency that manages and operates Deception Pass State Park, nor does this website represent the official views of the Commission. The information on this web site is maintained for the Foundation as reasonably current and dependable information for your benefit and use. The Foundation seeks to support Deception Pass State Park and provide valuable services to its visitors. All of the money raised by the Foundation goes to the direct benefit of the educational and resource protection programs of Deception Pass State Park.
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