Bridgeport Covered Bridge (No. 390 California Historical Landmark)
California Historical Landmarks Program
Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:
1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region
2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California
3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder
California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.
In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.
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The Bridgeport Covered Bridge was built in 1862 and has been in continuous use ever since. The bridge was part of the Virginia Turnpike Company Toll Road to serve the northern mines. Horses and carriages also traveled to Virginia City, Nevada and the Comstock silver mines of Nevada.
The Bridgeport Covered Bridge crosses a rocky channel of the South Fork of the Yuba River at Bridgeport. It is a well known and loved Nevada County landmark. Building toll roads became popular during the Gold Rush because the booming population required building more roads. California state government decided that toll roads were the best way to finance the new construction by private companies.
The shake roof and wooden sides create the bridge’s characteristic appearance. Using truss and arch construction, the bridge stretches 230 feet and is reported to be the longest single-span wooden covered bridge in the United States.
Severe flooding almost washed away the bridge during the winter of 1997, and luckily maintenance workers were able to repair it. Bridgeport Covered Bridge closed to car traffic in 2010 due to serious maintenance issues. In 2011, the bridge closed to pedestrians, also due to safety concerns. Currently, the South Yuba River State Park Association (SYRPA) Save Our Bridge (S.O.B.) Campaign is underway to repair, restore and reopen the Covered Bridge at Bridgeport. Please help reopen this coveted historic bridge and visit southyubariverstatepark.org for more information and a PayPal donation link.
The Office of Historic Preservation describes in their historical report on this landmark what the county surveyor wrote in a report in 1905 about the bridge.
“Dropping into the South Fork of the Yuba River, on the old route from the mines of French Corral and the San Juan Ridge to Marysville, the traveler comes unexpectedly upon one of the most remarkable of the covered bridges. In 1862, after a winter of rains had swept out an earlier structure, this combination of Warren truss and auxiliary arch erected by J.W. Woods, owner of a sawmill in the mountains. The material is local Douglas-fir. The abutments are massive granite blocks. Today this bridge endures without excessive strain the passage of a 13-ton tractor.
“Engineers say it is impossible to figure the proportion of stress carried by the truss and by the arch, either of which is capable of carrying the entire weight. The arch, visible both from without and with, consists of two 5 x 14 timbers bolted together, squeezing them between the members of the truss.”
The historical landmark is located on the West side of Pleasant Valley Road at the South Fork of the Yuba River, 2.7 miles south of French Corral.
Nevada means “snow-covered” in Spanish. During winter months, Nevada County’s eastern border is wholly engulfed in the snows of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. In the 1840s and 1850s many emigrants arrived in California via the Overland Emigrant Trail which threaded through the infamous Donner Pass.
Time Period Represented
1862 date of construction