Drawbridge Expedition

We know how i am about bridges and that i’m twice as bad about drawbridges.  Well, when i drove off to Oakdale to do that photo essay about Oakdale Cheese, i couldn’t help noticing several drawbridges on the way to and from the cheesery.  However, i was On a Mission and did not have time going or energy returning to mess around with finding vantages from which to photograph those bridges.

So last week i mounted a second expedition with the goal of photographing them (plus one fixed span).

If we head east on SR12 from Fairfield, the first bridge we come to is the Helen Madere Memorial Bridge across the Sacramento River in Rio Vista.

Helen Madere Memorial Bridge



Helen Madere Memorial Bridge


Even closer

Helen Madere Memorial Bridge


About seven miles east of Rio Vista, SR12 passes over the S. Mokelumne River on the Mokelumne River Bridge just a couple of miles above the point at which it pours into the San Jacinto.  Only one shot of this bridge because there’s only one point from which it can be photographed.  Period.  See, the problem out here in the delta is that the roads are mostly on top of dikes, and there are rarely shoulders onto which you can pull over for photos.

Mokelumne River Bridge


About seven miles farther east, just before passing by the village of Terminous, SR12 crosses Little Potato Slough, a curious body of water that connects the S. Mokelumne River and the San Jacinto River.  And for this dinky little slough we get the Little Potato Slough Bridge that doesn’t look like a drawbridge but is.

Little Potato Slough Bridge


And from underneath the other end.  The swing section is just this side of the tender tower.  You can’t see the slough because its banks are ten foot high dikes.

Little Potato Slough Bridge


I called Terminous a “village”, but it’s actually a “census-designated place” of 381 souls that was the end of a railroad branch line and sits at an elevation of -7 feet.  Yep, minus seven.  This is the delta, where most of the land is what they call “islands”, which are actually holes in the water surrounded by dikes owing to subsistence from over a century of agriculture.  Gonna be real interesting as sea level rises and more and more of the “islands” are breached and keeping them dry becomes a losing battle.


Just west of Lodi, SR12 hits I5, and we turn right down to Stockton and grab SR4 west.

The first drawbridge on our way back on SR4 is the Middle River Bridge.

Middle River Bridge


And a closeup

Middle River Bridge


The second drawbridge is the Old River Bridge.  Here’s a shot into the mouth.

Old River Bridge


A kind reader wondered if there were one of those “No Jumping” signs on the Golden Gate Bridge.  Why didn’t i think of that?  Yes yes yes, instead of squandering fifty million dollars on a hideously ugly anti-suicide fence, we could solve the problem with one of those hundred dollar signs.


A side view.

Old River Bridge


What is this, you wonder, with the “middle” and “old” rivers?  Well, if you look at the delta from above, particularly the southern part where the San Joaquin flows in toward its junction with the Sacramento, all the meandering waterways look like a loose tangle of blue spaghetti.  To get across all that flat delta, the river forks just west of Manteca into three main channels, and after much forking and reforking the old and middle rivers rejoin the main branch before it flows into the Sacramento at Antioch.

Finally, it’s not a drawbridge, but here’s the Antioch Bridge, which crosses the San Joaquin immediately before the confluence.  There were dozens of people fishing for stripers off that pier.  What is it about being born in fresh water but spending your life in salt water before returning to fresh water to spawn and die that makes you so delicious?

Antioch Bridge

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  1. David Ogden
    Posted 14 June 2016 at 08:02 | Permalink

    I feel like I’ve just had a tour of the Delta, which I’ve visited only sporadically and unplannedly. Also glad to see the former vice mayor of Rio Vista immortalized.

    • Posted 14 June 2016 at 08:12 | Permalink

      I leave it to my kind readers to provide the background i’ve omitted. I had no idea who Helen Madere was.

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