Rehabilitation of the Bridge at South Yuba River SP
Historic Bridgeport Bridge Re-opens After a Decade!
Constructed in 1862 by the Virginia Turnpike Company,the Bridgeport covered bridge located at the South Yuba River State Park in western Nevada County is the only remaining single-span covered wooden bridge of this size in the nation.
Closed since 2011 due to safety concerns, this landmark finally reopened to the public on Nov. 4, 2021. We are thrilled to welcome people to walk across this bridge and take a step back in time. This bridge re-connects hiking trails and the historic area, allowing visitors to relive the mining-era days of travel along the turnpike.
We were honored to have California State Parks Director Armando Quintero speak at the event. In one of his most poignant lines, he said “Time itself is a bridge.” Time gives us perspective; it lets us view our history with more wisdom than when we live through it, and allows us to connect with the long distant past through our memories and experiences.
Our own histories overlap, and like the shingles on this bridge, make a more beautiful and solid piece that weaves together stories, experiences, and our past. From Nevada City Nisenan Rancheria’s Tribal Spokesperson Shelly Covert’s moving song in the native Nisenan language, to a poem created and read by Nevada County Poet Laureate Kirsten Casey, to Nevada County Supervisor Susan Hoek’s memories of family cattle drives, and the clear passion of the Save Our Bridge Campaign Committee for this bridge; time stretches back in each of us. State Senators Jim Nielsen and Brian Dahle also spoke at the reopening celebration and offered their words of support.
Conservation is a community effort, and the preservation of this historic structure would not have been possible without decades of community support. Director Quintero presented the Save Our Bridge Campaign Committee & the Bridge Photography Group the State Park Medallion Volunteer award for their tireless passion and dedication to this project.
Walking across this bridge is not a simple journey, it is imbued with history, craftsmanship, and potential for new memories.
This extensive and careful rehabilitation effort is an inspirational example how a community can come together to save a historical treasure for future generations. Spectra Company brought true craftsmanship to this project; respecting the structure, and taking on the challenge of such a large and historic bridge with care and dedication. Walking across the bridge shows their skill in every support beam and curving timber; a dedication in wood to the craftsmen of the past who built this bridge with hand tools and horses nearly 160 years ago.
After construction in 1862, it wasn’t until the summer of 1947 the bridge was first recognized as a historic landmark. Twenty-two years later, the Nevada County Historical Society began efforts to preserve the bridge, and within two years it was closed to vehicle traffic, placed on the national register, and the first major restorative work took place. After extreme flooding in 1997 matched 1862 levels and caused damage to the bridge, further repairs were made. In 2011, the bridge closed to pedestrian traffic, and within two years, the Save Our Bridge Campaign (SOB) Committee formed with the goal of re-opening this historic bridge.
Supported by State Parks, Sierra Gold Parks Foundation, Nevada County, South Yuba River Citizens’ League, and the Nevada County Regional Chamber of Commerce, private citizens and elected officials, SOB gained the attention, support and eventual $6.9 million in funding to make this goal a reality. Rehabilitation spanned mid-2019 through the fall of 2021 by Spectra Company.
To learn more about the reopening celebration, read our press release.
After twenty months of engineered support, the bridge was finally lowered onto its own foundation on May 24th. Spanning the wild and scenic South Yuba River, this bridge is a landmark of historic ingenuity and a testament to its original design and construction.
Once the keystone for transit from the populous valley towns to the gold dusted hills of the Sierras, and then on to the new silver mines of Nevada, this bridge has stood for nearly 160 years; resolute and elegant over a river that rages and flows with a capricious whim. Recent historic floods of 1997 and 2017 echo with frightening clarity the flood of 1862, which washed the original bridge away.
Virginian David Wood looked to new designs, and the style of the East coast he came from when he designed this bridge. Rare for the sunny and temperate climate of California, this bridge is covered and a roof meant for winter snow instead protects against the summer heat. Installation of the distinctive and structurally important roofing and arch supports has begun, and the temporary internal steel bridge support structure will soon be removed.
“This historical treasure, the longest single span wood covered Bridge in the world, will soon reopen to the public. We are all looking forward to the Grand Re-opening of the Bridge later this year” says Doug Moon, Chair of the Save Our Bridge Campaign Committee. It’s time for our bridge to stand on its own; once it is re-open and clad in thousands of shingles, walking across it will be a step back in time to when it was completed over the summer of 1862.
California State Parks continues to work closely with the contractor on the restoration of the Bridgeport Covered Bridge at South Yuba River State Park. Despite the current pandemic and the recent wildfires, work proceeded on this important project. However, due to extensive repairs and replacement of timber and support beams, the project will continue into the spring of 2021.
Here’s the latest progress made to date:
- The temporary steel support bridge has been installed to provide the engineered shoring system required to support the historic wooden bridge during reconstruction.
- The bridge has been jacked up to relieve all load and tension on the bridge structure. In addition, the bridge has been deconstructed to remove all rotten wood members that required replacement.
- The bridge is supported by wood timber framing similar to a truss. As part of this system, there are wood timber beams at each end that transfer the load to the concrete abutments. The abutments are nearing completion. Once complete, the last remaining wood reconstruction timber work can proceed with the installation of the beams.
State Parks thanks the Save Our Bridge Committee and our wonderful community for their support to restore this historic landmark. We will continue to provide updates as they become available.
Although there has been progress in the restoration of the historic bridge, California State Parks announced today that the project will not be completed by this spring, as previously scheduled.
State Parks is working with the contractor to develop a recovery schedule to minimize the extension of the completion date. While a revised completion date is not currently available, it is likely that the project will not be finished until the second half of 2020. State Parks will be working closely with our partner, the Save Our Bridge Committee, to ensure any new timelines are communicated and our bridge is fully restored.
State Parks and the contractor are continuing work towards a safe and successful completion of the restoration of this invaluable historic asset to the State of California.
Here’s the progress that has been made so far:
- The Bridgeport Covered Bridge currently has a Temporary Steel Support Bridge installed inside the wood bridge structure, with working platforms suspended from the Temporary Support Bridge.
- Concrete footings have been installed on the south side of the River to augment the existing footings at the steel support columns. The footings will be providing the main shoring support for the bridge during reconstruction.
- The contractor is currently working on an Engineering Shoring System Work Plan that will allow for the safe completion of the disassembly process, as well as the reconstruction of the historic wood covered bridge structure.
State Parks appreciates the incredible commitment and support of the community and the Save Our Bridge Committee. We continue the efforts to restore the Bridgeport Covered Bridge and will keep our community informed as more information becomes available. We thank the public for their patience as we work towards restoring this historic landmark.
Starting Wednesday, June 12, California State Parks will temporarily close the south parking lot to day-use parking at South Yuba River State Park while the historic Bridgeport Covered Bridge is renovated. Originally built in 1862, the bridge was closed to public access after a timber survey in September 2011 revealed significant structural damage. Thanks to the support of the Nevada County community, the Save our Bridge Campaign Committee, and the Legislature, the $6.9 million restoration project, funded with a combination of state and federal funds, is now underway to make the bridge safe again for pedestrian access. Construction is expected to be completed by April 2020.
Click on map above to enlarge.
The south parking lot will be closed during the renovation but the north lot will remain open. Those heading into the river must use the portage areas at Family Beach and Kneebone Beach for their safety. Signs will be posted to direct visitors.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning to visit this popular park:
Parking in the South Lot
- Will be closed due to construction.
Visitor Center and Restrooms
- The visitor center will be open to the public during the renovation, seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- The restrooms near the visitor center will also be open during the renovation. Normal park day-use hours will be unaffected.
Access to Kneebone Beach and Family Beach
- During the renovation, construction crews will be working on and under the bridge. For the public’s safety, there will be two portage areas (access points to enter and exit the water) for park aquatic users located at Kneebone Beach and Family Beach.
- Visitors are being asked to use these portage areas instead of traveling down the river and under the potentially hazardous construction area.
- For the park visitor’s safety, the area around the bridge will be fenced off and closed. Any park visitor in violation of this will be subject to a citation.
- The north parking lot will still be open for visitors.
- Due to the south lot closure, State Parks is encouraging visitors to carpool, rideshare or use the shuttle bus, when available, due to the limited amount of parking available. Thank you for your patience and understanding during the renovation.
- As always, please recreate safely and protect you and your loved ones. Always wear a properly fitted life jacket, even if you’re a strong swimmer. The rivers are running dangerously cold and fast due to the large amounts of snow and rain received this year. Be sure to actively supervise children at all times. For more safety tips, click here.
The reconstruction project on the Bridgeport Covered Bridge is moving forward. A construction contract was awarded to Spectra Company in the fall of 2018. The total project cost is $6.9 million. Spectra Company will begin mobilizing materials and equipment this spring in preparation of starting construction in late spring or early summer, once water levels are safe. Construction is expected to be completed by the end of 2019.
We will continue to update you on the construction process as information becomes available.
We thank the Nevada County community, the Save our Bridge Campaign Committee and everyone who has supported us to restore this historic bridge so that many future generations can experience this one-of-a-kind site.
The Bridgeport Covered Bridge was originally built in 1862. Located in South Yuba River State Park, the bridge spans 226 feet and is 16 feet wide. The Bridgeport Covered Bridge is the only remaining single-span Howe Truss-Burr Arch covered timber bridge of this size in the nation and is listed on the National Register of Historic Structures. It is a major attraction used by 150,000 visitors each year as a pedestrian bridge across the South Yuba River in Nevada County, California.
The bridge was closed to public access after a timber survey in September 2011 revealed significant structural damage. The park desires to use the structure for pedestrian access and horse drawn wagons. The project seeks to restore and rehabilitate the existing structure. All repairs will be reviewed and approved by a California State Parks Historian to maintain conformance to the Department of the Interior Standards for Historical Preservation strategies.
The restoration and rehabilitation project includes:
- Installation of temporary shoring
- Replacing fracture-critical elements (cast iron tension elements)
- Replacing decayed wood sections in wood trusses
- Replacing fracture-critical bolts
- Rebuilding top chord and roof
- Rehabilitation of existing abutments
- Repair items discovered during course of construction