Humboldt County

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Fortuna Hotels 3 mi.


California bridges


Humboldt County
Fields Landing
Lost Coast


Fernbridge Bridge Humboldt County Rivers

Eel River from Fernbridge
fernbridge road signs, bridge


Fernbridge is named for the bridge, the centerpiece of this Humboldt County town with less than 100 people who live next to the Eel River.


Fernbridge and the town's centerpiece bridge, are important to the region. The bridge was built nearly 100 years ago in 1911, and quickly gained fame at the time as the world's largest all-concrete span. It stretched nearly 1320 feet or a quarter of a mile across the federally designated wild and scenic Eel River, once abundant with salmon.


Also called Eel River Bridge, Fernbridge is listed on the National Historic Register for its road-related transportation function and architectural and engineering significance during the period of 1900 to 1924. Built on California Highway 211, old black and white photographs show not only the bridge but also a railroad station and dozens of buildings in a centralized community. Registered as Structure #87000566, Fernbridge was built by the State of California with architect, builder, or engineer John B. Leonard.


When a normally docile, meandering river raged over its banks in December 2005, the Fernbridge community was put on alert and the bridge was closed. Eel River was predicted to crest at 26 feet (flooding occurs at 20 feet) and surrounding businesses, homes and livestock were evacuated in preparation. Like other California communities located near rivers susceptible to flooding (Forrestville, Guerneville and Napa), Fernbridge's active participants are a determined lot who bounce back undeterred. The townsfolk of Ferndale five miles were also affected by the bridge closure during the busy holiday season just days before Christmas.


When visiting, enjoy your car or bicycle ride across this historic bridge and try to imagine how it must have felt to ride across it in the early 1900's when it was the world's largest concrete span. Today the bridge seems rather impressive mainly for the sweeping views of the meandering river below. As bridges go, it doesn't seem that special, but back in the old days, its construction was well known.