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American Road Magazine
Celebrating our two-lane highways of yesteryear…And the joys of driving them today!
Keep the Show on the Road!

Us 99 Totem Pole Bridge & The Old Brewery

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The Pacific Highway, later US 99, follows the Cowlitz Trail northward between the Columbia River and Olympia, Washington. This is the northern branch of the Oregon Trail, which carried the first white settlers from the United States into the Puget Sound.


The site of that first settlement at Tumwater Falls on the Deschutes River is within a few hundred yards of the now closed Olympia Brewery with its familiar slogan “It’s the Water.”


The old Brewery offered tours and was a familiar stop on old 99. Anyone who took the tour will remember the great copper kettles, filled with a swirling mixture of hops and yeast, and of course the water from artesian wells. And if you were old enough, you got to sample the brew.


In 1936-37 the Pacific Highway was rerouted a bit so that it was carried across the Deschutes on a new art deco bridge that featured a pair of totem poles at each end. It provided a fine view of the brewery. The bridge was built as a depression era public works project.


The bridge, totem poles, and art deco lamp posts are still standing and in excellent condition. The bridge carries traffic on Capitol Way. The totem poles are a familiar reflection of the region’s Native American heritage, but with a modern (1937) art deco influence.


Headed north you can turn left (west) just across the bridge, go about 200 yards and turn left again down the hill beside the brewery. This is the pre 1937 route of the Pacific Highway. It crosses the Deschutes River on a recently renovated bridge. At the west end is a small monument placed by the DAR in 1916 to commemorate the northern end of the Oregon Trail. Looking straight ahead (west) on the new bridge you see a lovely 30 foot retaining wall and savor the sounds of the I-5 freeway. Before the freeway paved over old Tumwater, you would have been looking at the Tumwater Drug Store and the north end of downtown Tumwater.


A turn to the right will take you to the Tumwater Historical Park (watch for the sign on your right) and a view of the original Brewery which was at water level at the very end of Puget Sound. As you drive out of the park, you may enjoy visiting the home of Bing Crosby’s grandfather, Nathaniel Crosby III and the Tumwater Historical Society across the road..


You can backtrack to the intersection at the north end of the totem pole bridge (officially the Capitol Boulevard Crossing Bridge) and turn left (north) to follow old 99 into Olympia.


Does anyone have a recollection of old Tumwater, the bridge, US 99 in the area, or the brewery to share?


Just trying to Keep the Show on the Road!

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You did such a great job describing the bridge and the brewery. I cannot add to your terrific testimonial about it. However, I can say we drove that beautiful bridge many times during our 13 years in Washington state. Thomas would give me a history lesson on the brewery every time we drove past!


You're doing a great job of Keeping the Show on the Road!


Becky Repp


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