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Stories from the valley

Bridge to Our Past

Contributed by Jim Morris

Where you have water, life will follow. It has been that way for millennia; since the Tigris and Euphrates.

Today, it remains easy to see how water remains the lifeblood of society. Here in the Sacramento Valley, there’s no better example than visiting the communities located along rivers. I recently had a chance to experience the Diestelhorst Bridge in Redding; named after pioneer farmer Gotlieb Diestelhorst and family, as it was built on part of his ranch. The Diestelhorst family grew vegetables and hay after arriving from Germany in 1852.

Between 1851 to 1915 a ferry known as the Reid’s Ferry operated at the same location. In 1907, pioneer ferryman Edward A. Reid sold the ferry to John and Charles Diestelhorst who were the sons of Gottlieb. The Diestelhorst brothers operated the ferry up until 1915 when the bridge was erected. The ferry charged travelers heading north and south, but the new bridge was a “free” or “non-toll” bridge which ultimately closed down the ferry. After it was completed the bridge was named after the Diestelhorst family. The Diestelhorst bridge continues to have the distinction of being the first and oldest remaining concrete reinforced bridge over the Sacramento River north of Anderson.

On a warm, sunny day I visited the Diestelhorst bridge, there was plenty of foot traffic on the 639-foot long bridge, as well as a steady stream of cyclists. I recommend stopping and viewing the marvelous Sacramento River, then taking the trail near the bridge, where you can catch a fantastic reflection underneath it.

One additional historical nugget about this area: before the construction of Shasta Dam between 1938 and 1945 (which made the water temperature much colder), locals used to swim that portion of the river that is called Lake Redding. There are still signs of the Redding Regatta, where there were boat races and water carnivals. In fact, there were even diving boards on the bridge in its early years!

An excellent resource for local history is the Shasta Historical Society, which was formed on January 18, 1930 in Redding and is the leading historical society in Shasta County.