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Stories from the valley

The Bridgeport Covered Bridge

Contributed by Keli Gwyn

Any bridge is interesting, but a covered bridge is the best. When my husband and I planned a hike on the Independence Trail alongside the South Yuba River recently (see post here), he asked if I’d like to visit the Bridgeport Covered Bridge nearby too. My response was an enthusiastic “yes!”

The historic bridge, built in 1862, is the longest single-span covered bridge in the world. Originally a toll bridge on the Virginia Turnpike leading to Virginia City, Nevada, many have crossed beneath the arched, shake-covered frame. In 1862, a sheep could do so for a nickel, a single horse-drawn buggy for a dollar and a team of eight horses for six dollars, a staggering sum in those days.

The impressive bridge, one of nine covered bridges left in California, closed to vehicle traffic in 1972 after 110 years of service. Although currently closed to foot traffic while funds are raised for its restoration, the bridge is an impressive site and makes a great backdrop for those eager to enjoy some waterplay in its shadow.

While at the park, be sure to stop by the visitor center, where you can learn more about the bridge and the neighboring Bridgeport Ranch. The large red Dutch-style Bridgeport Barn houses a collection of wagons, along with a hay press dating back to 1857. A gas station, built in 1927 by the owner at the time, offered fuel as well as fresh fruit and vegetables grown on his farm to those visiting his swimming resort.

Although there are no restaurants nearby, the park has many great picnic spots, including shady tables by the visitors’ center. Cell service in the park can be spotty, but you could surprise someone with a call from the working payphone.

The Bridgeport Covered Bridge and Bridgeport Ranch are located in the South Yuba River State Park sixteen miles northwest of Grass Valley via Highway 20 and Pleasant Valley Road. A popular destination, the parking lot at the bridge fills quickly, so plan to arrive early. Additional parking is located just up the road on the other side of the present-day bridge. A parking fee of $10 from Memorial Day to Labor Day and $5 the rest of the year is required.