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Exploring the Feather River Gorge: So Many Bridges

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

Today felt like a great day to get up early and head out in the Jeep for a road-trip to locate some historic bridges. When we left our house this morning, it was 31 degrees F. We drove less than 100 miles away (and, subsequently, to lower elevation) and it was 75 degrees.

As I've mentioned before, one of the subjects I like photographing is bridges. This road trip included stops to view 10 bridges (though we saw and crossed many more), taking picturesque shots of the North Fork Feather River and a waterfall, not to mention driving through 3 tunnels and on a rustic dirt road to Butt Lake.

The first stop was at the Spanish Creek bridge. A small parking area provided several interpretive signs that explained the development of the area and notable historical facts. In 2013, a time capsule was buried at this site, as well.

The original Spanish Creek bridge was erected in 1932 and this newer and more modern concrete arch bridge replaced it in 2012.

Throughout our day-trip, we made several stops along the Feather River to take photos. It has many beautiful bends and rushing rapids and is surrounded by tree-covered mountains. Railroad tracks parallel the river in many spots, too.

I would be remiss if I did not mention this next particular stop along the river. It was one of several we made, but this one, we ventured down from the highway to get closer to the river. The steep, rocky bank from the highway down to the river has been coated in concrete as an erosion prevention measure (my husband pointed this out).

As we were carefully making our way down to the water, my foot slipped on some of the small, loose rocks and debris on top of the concrete -- like ball bearings -- and down I landed, mostly on my butt. It wasn't a terribly traumatic fall, but I feel fortunate to not have broken or twisted anything. My palms got scraped up a little bit, but I brushed myself off and continued down to the river. It wouldn't be the first time I've slipped down a steep trail and probably won't be the last.

About 10 minutes later, I was still taking photos of the river, and I noticed that my left palm was all bloody (I'm sorry I didn't take a photo). When we got back to the Jeep, I used the first aid kit to clean up the abrasions and bandage them up. Not a big deal, overall, but many people express concern about my safety when we are out adventuring, because I'm one to walk out on rock cliffs to get a better view. We do a lot of hiking and thankfully, I rarely ever sustain an injury. Then I'm climbing down the side of a highway and that's when I slip and fall. Go figure.

Beautiful river, isn't it?

Another one of our roadside stops along the North Fork Feather River.

We absolutely loved this particular view with the flowing river, the green trees, rocky terrain, and then the snow-capped mountains in the distance. (Can you spot the Jeep?)

Sadly, this particular area has fallen victim to recent wildfires, thus many of the treed mountain faces looked scarred and decimated and have nothing left but charred trunks. It is sad to see, but we were also glad to see that many of these burned areas were now being logged.

Something about this tree caught my eye, so I made a point to stop and photograph it during a roadside stop near Howell's Bridge.

This is Howell's Bridge, erected in 1934.

Then we moved on to Belden Town. I don't know if this town had any actual houses in it. We saw a couple of one-room cottages, a small RV park, and this old hotel, which was also a general store, bar, and restaurant set right alongside the river.

The town also had several unique outdoor art displays. Some were painted murals or large carved and painted rocks or wood. I took a photo of this one with my 2-year-old niece Nora in mind. She loves bugs and captures them and adds them to her little "bug house."

We also ventured down to the beach area to photograph the Belden Town Bridge, built in 1912.

The next "set" of truss bridges was pretty unique. In 1910, the railroad bridge was constructed. Then in 1936, the Tobin (highway) Bridge was constructed below it.

This is the railroad bridge that is above the Tobin highway bridge.

Walking along the Tobin (highway) Bridge with a view of the North Fork Feather River.

Here you can see a funny juxtaposition of the two truss bridges in a single frame.

A view of both bridges from the river below.

Storrie Bridge. One of the smallest highway bridges of the day.

I'm not sure what the name of this bridge is, but it was very unique. I don't believe it is technically a "highway bridge," but it does accommodate automobiles. As you can see, the bridge deck is wood. The trusses are dark green and the pieces are literally held together with clamps (another detail my husband pointed out). I just found it visually appealing.

Then, possibly my favorite surprise of the day, was this pretty waterfall we happened upon. It was in this little moss-lined fern gully dripping with water droplets along the edges, and as soon as you descended into the gully, this incredibly amazing aroma filled the air. I'm not even sure what I was smelling, but it was heavenly.

You know how a fancy spa tries to create a lovely, relaxing atmosphere that includes some kind of yummy aroma? This reminded me of that only exponentially better. I don't know if I can accurately describe it, but it was very fresh and earthy -- not like a dirt smell, though -- mixed with a pretty, light floral scent. Maybe even a little something like eucalyptus, too. Mmm. It was divine. I told my husband I was disappointed that there's no way to capture this in a photo or in a video. I wish there was a way to bottle it up and save it. I wish you all could smell the photos or the video.

Such a fun stop that was. I really do love me some waterfalls.

With all of these railroad bridges and miles of track, one would wonder if we'd ever actually see a train passing by. Well, we were lucky to catch this one, though not crossing one of the bridges, but along the river was a pretty setting, nonetheless.

I have to tell you about this next shot of Pulga Bridge. We pulled off the highway again, trying to find a decent vantage point. Our first attempt wasn't very good. Our second attempt was much better, however, but it required that we climb around an outcropping, navigating some sketchy boulders along a steep slope. (And just in case you're wondering why I picked another dangerous route to get the best view, I want you all to know that this route was my husband's idea.) We rounded the edge and climbed up and over and came upon this majestic view of the Pulga Bridge, the North Fork Feather River, and the railroad tracks. My husband wonders out loud, "I wonder if this would be any good for BASE jumping."

You can also see the burned mountainside in the center background. The view is still pretty amazing.

We jumped back in the Jeep and made our way closer to Pulga Bridge. Again, it's another unique "set" of bridges. This time, the highway bridge (erected in 1932) was constructed above and over the railroad bridge, which had been erected in 1909, connecting the Sacramento Valley to Salt Lake City via rail.

From here, we turned onto Caribou Road and headed toward a reservoir named Butt Lake. I'm not kidding. I'll post a photo to prove it.

I would compare Caribou Road to a typical dirt forest road, even though it is not technically a "forest road." The lower sections of it were dusty and dry, but as we climbed higher, the dirt got muddier and ruttier. On this route, we came across another old one-lane bridge. This one was all wooden. I had to stop and walk around and photograph this idyllic setting.

Caribou Road is not what I would call a heavily traveled route for anyone. But as I was walking across this little wooden bridge, I turned around and saw an older model minivan staring me down. Taken aback a little at the unexpected sight of a visitor on this lonely dirt road, I hurriedly jumped out of the way and made my way back over by my husband as the van very slowly approached us.

My husband noticed that the van had Iowa license plates. The driver came to a slow stop adjacent to us and we exchange hellos. The white-haired driver was probably 75 years old, wearing a John Deere hat, and had a black and white collie-type dog riding shotgun. My husband tells him, "You know, they don't allow Iowans past this point." We all chuckled and he explained to the man that he was from Minnesota, to which the man replied, "Oh, I'm sorry." And we all laughed again.

Then the man assured me that he doesn't make a habit out of running over beautiful women. I blushed and laughed. He looked at my husband and says, "You're a lucky man." Possibly the best moment of my day. A compliment from a complete stranger literally in the middle of nowhere. Might have known it would be an old guy from the Midwest.

We continued climbing up Caribou Road until we reached a directional sign. I insisted we stop and take a photo. Accuse me of having a 13-year-old's humor, but I needed evidence of this.

Ok. So, I couldn't resist.

The whole thing kind of calls into question what this "Butt Lake" is going to look like.

Not too shabby for a PG&E reservoir.

All of the area campgrounds are still closed for the season, but I bet this lake gets pretty busy during the summer months.

At this point, we've still got daylight and gas in the tank, so off to one more photo op before we had back home.

Last but not least is a cool railroad bridge that splits into a 'Y', but the challenge was we had to figure out the safest place to park and access a good view without trespassing.

In railroading, a wye is defined as a triangular junction of tracks. The Keddie Wye is unique in that it’s the only wye in the world to have two legs elevated on bridges that meet in a tunnel.

I present to you... the Keddie Wye.

The first leg was built 1909 and the second leg in 1931. You can find out more facts about the history of this railroading marvel here.

To those of you wondering... yes, we are total nerds. But seeing and appreciating cool and unique things adds spice to everyday life. And you just never know what kinds of fun things you'll find or nice people you'll meet.


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I hope you enjoy reading about my adventures and checking out the photos I take along the way!

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