Wednesday, January 11, 2017

bridging troubled waters

The muddy, churning water rushes by. And No Hands Bridge watches. It’s not the tallest (that would be the Foresthill Bridge, at 730 feet ), it doesn’t carry cars home every day (two other nondescript bridges complete that task), and it no longer carries railroad cars, just hikers and horses. It isn’t even straight: angling across the river from bank to bank.

lake No Hands!

But it has lasted. Built in 1912, officially the Mountain Quarries Railroad Bridge. At the time the longest concrete railroad bridge in the world. It is old (for California). This state is so new to permanent structures. And has so many ways to destroy them: earthquake and fire, flood and heat. Beneath this water rest the bones of other bridges, concrete and rebar, twisted and broken.

old bridge abutment
It has lasted through an upstream dam breech in 1964. Through countless storms, including the floods of 1986 that covered the bridge and swept away a downstream dam. It has seen droughts and drownings, and of course, Tevis (both directions even!)

full confluence
The American River confluence is full for the first time in ten years. Rain has finally arrived. But this rushing water is barely a test. Even 105-year-old old cement can handle this. There will be a day when it crumbles, and is deemed unsafe, and we will mourn its graceful lines.

But until then No Hands Bridge looks down on the muddy waters, remembers its reflection, and stands tall.


  1. I love this! Thank you for sharing. High waters are so fun to watch from a safe distance.

  2. I would love to see it one day. Hey, new word for me: abutment.