The bridge is named after The Beebe Orchard Company which built the first bridge, a reinforced concrete tower suspension bridge, in 1919, over the Columbia River at Chelan Falls.
Beebe Bridge was built to carry irrigation water in two 12-inch water flumes from springs on the west side(Chelan County) to their orchards on the east side of the river (Douglas County).
The Beebe Bridge was the first suspension bridge in Washington State.
BeebeBridge was completed at a cost of $75,000 and was at the time, the largest privately built and owned bridge in the world!
By 1947 the Beebe Orchard Company was the state’s largest apple growing enterprise operated by a single family.
Although not originally intended for a public vehicle crossing, the historic bridge’s 12-foot-wide wooden-deck roadway aided in fruit transport and helped the company recoup the cost of extending the water pipeline by instituting crossing tolls.
Although the water flumes were removed in 1926, the private toll bridge remained in use until it was replaced by the current state bridge in 1963.
The state began construction of the present bridge in 1959 and had completed the piers before the Columbia River, behind Rocky Reach dam, inundated the site.
During continued construction, legal maneuvering by the orchard company brought the project to a halt for over a year.
The Beebe Orchard Company finally agreed to accept a one-time payment of $4,000 for its property and interests.
The old suspension bridge was dismantled but its concrete towers were left in place and can still be seen just downstream (south) of the new span, see photos below.
On August 31, 2009 a semi-truck collision severely damaged the Beebe Bridge’s steel trusses and beams forcing its closure.
Traffic was detoured through Chelan County to U.S. Route 97A.
The bridge was repaired and reopened on October 9, 2009 at a cost of $1.5 million.
Here is an article during that time depicting the problems created:
CHELAN — Gov. Chris Gregoire declared a state of emergency Thursday in Chelan and Douglas counties because of the Beebe Bridge closure, saying it is a “public disaster.”
A proclamation she issued said the closure to vehicle traffic since the fatal truck crash on Aug. 31 “continues to impact the life and health of our citizens, as well as the property and transportation infrastructure of Washington state.”
A semi driven by Kathleen Walker, 48, of Olympia, crashed into the side of the bridge. The cab plunged into the river 100 feet below, killing her and her husband, Peter Wooley, 60, who was a passenger in the cab.
Gregoire issued the state of emergency in order to speed up the normal contractor bidding process so the truss and beam damage caused by the accident could be repaired more quickly. The governor’s proclamation said the repairs could cost $1 million, and the project is “expected to be complex and relatively lengthy.”
Jeff Adamson, a state Department of Transportation spokesman, said one lane of the bridge will reopen to traffic at 5 a.m. Monday; but he said it’s still unknown when the bridge damage will be completely repaired.
He said a pilot car would guide vehicles across the bridge day and night, but the bridge might have to be closed periodically for overhead repairs.
“The governor told us initially to do whatever we needed to do to get this bridge fixed as soon as possible,” Adamson said. “She said don’t worry about the money, we’ll take care of those details later. So I guess this is her taking care of the details.”
KLM Inc. received a contract to help manufacture and install the special jacks needed to push the bridge back to its former shape, said Adamson. He also said KLM is handling the fabrication of the trusses and beams damaged in the accident.