PENN VALLEY, Calif. — Drive down Pleasant Valley Road into South Yuba River State Park and you’ll pass by California’s oldest and largest single-span wooden covered bridge. When miners rushed to the gold-rich hills of Nevada County, one of the biggest obstacles in their way was the Yuba River, and the easiest way to overcome that obstacle was to cross the Bridgeport Covered Bridge.
Like many early bridges built during the gold rush, State Parks District Superintendent Daniel Canfield says the Bridgeport Covered Bridge was a toll bridge.
“It's 226 feet long and 16 feet wide,” Canfield said. “The width was important [so] it could handle two-way wagon traffic... Think about big wagons with big wheels being pulled by oxen with equipment.”
Entrepreneur David John Wood built the bridge in 1862 and charged anything with legs or wheels to cross over the wooden structure. It cost a quarter for lonely hikers and as much as $6 for wagon trains to cross. The Bridgeport Covered Bridge was constructed with massive timbers and was built to last.
“Back in the 1960s I have local people who remember driving across it before the official highway bridge was here,” Canfield said.
Despite its well-built wood frame, a flood in 1997 severely damaged the bridge. In 2011, it was determined the bridge was not safe for people to cross and it was closed.
“That kicked off a long period of restoration that we now get to reap the benefits from,” Canfield said.
Thanks to a group of locals, money was raised and after 10 long years, the bridge was reconstructed. Now, visitors can walk across the bridge and experience relics from the past, and enjoy the wildlife.
The Bridgeport Covered Bridge and South Yuba River Park are open daily from sunrise to sunset.
WATCH MORE: California's oldest walnut tree is a massive Modesto landmark | Bartell's Backroads