Russian River Bridge Expedition

The great joy of writing for fun is that i get to violate the rules i vigorously enforced forty years ago when i was teaching freshmen composition.


OK, so much for the politics.  Let’s do something fun instead, like an expedition to photograph the bridges over the Russian River.  Well, why not?  My rough count yields only 22 of ’em, so the scope is doable.

I set out at dawn on Thursday, 17 November, grinding up US-101 to Redwood Valley, a dozen miles north of Ukiah, and then taking little back roads ten miles north to the point where Tomki Road crosses the Russian River, the first bridge over it.  Not much to it here.

Russian River bridge at Tomki Road


Then i retraced my route south to capture the East Road crossing, the second bridge.

Russian River bridge at East Road


Then back down to the East School Way crossing in Redwood Valley, the third bridge.


Russian River bridge at East School Way


Another shot of this one.  Sigh, there was no place i could access to get a good shot.

Russian River bridge at East School Way


After that, it was back onto US-101 south to CA-20 east, just north of Calpella, for the fourth bridge. This is a big bridge, but again i found it damn near impossible to photograph owing to there being no good vantage i could get close to in my car.  Here’s the best i could get.

Russian River bridge at CA-20


There is also a railroad bridge immediately north of this one, but i couldn’t even see it.  Any of it.

Then south into Calpella and east on Moore Street for the fifth bridge.

Russian River bridge at Moore Street in Calpella


The sixth bridge is on Lake Mendocino Drive, north of Ukiah.

Russian River bridge at Lake Mendocino Drive above Ukiah


The seventh bridge is bit farther south, Vichy Springs Road east of Ukiah.  The river has become much larger at this point, partly owing to numerous creeks flowing into it from the west but largely due to input from the East Fork, which has been greatly enhanced by the Potter Valley Project.  This engineering work featured a dam on the Eel River and a diversion tunnel under the drainage divide into the headwater area of the East Fork of the Russian River, thus making the East Fork a much greater source of water than the main branch i’ve been photographing.

I’d not learned these facts about the East Fork when i did the photography.  Hell, when i started tracking down the locations of the bridges, i hadn’t even noticed the existence of an east fork.  I added the east fork bridges to the Russian River Bridges photoessay.

But for now, here’s the Vichy Springs Road bridge.



And then, the Talmage Road bridge just a bit south. At this point, i’m boring even myself by counting bridges, so i’ll stop.

Russian River bridge at Talmage Road east of Ukiah


And then, i turned east in Hopland on CA-175 for a couple of miles for this one.

Russian River bridge at CA-175 east of Hopland


Another shot of the above.

Russian River bridge at CA-175 east of Hopland


Then, a few miles south of Hopland, US-101 crosses over to the east bank of the river. This is a big old bridge, but it’s hard to see from any point at which you can stop your car, and i couldn’t get a good photo.  Grrrrr.

Russian River bridge at US-101 south of Hopland


There’s also a railroad crossing just north of this that i couldn’t see.


For ten miles south, while the road is running on the east bank, there are gorgeous glimpses of the river at the foot of often sheer cliffs to the west.  Alas, i found no turnout at any point where i could see down into the river.

US-101 crosses back over to the west side of the river at Geysers Road, another bridge that’s real hard to photograph.  I need a drone with a powerful camera.  Not a problem to buy one, but whether i could learn to operate both it and the camera is an issue.

Russian River bridge on Geysers Road


Down to Cloverdale and east on 1st Street a couple of miles we find the Crocker Road Bridge from 1938, a metal 10 Panel Rivet-Connected Polygonal Warren Pony Truss.  This is a good place to point out that, while we’ve had a couple of light rains that have greened the fields, the winter rains haven’t started.  Otherwise, those gravel bars would be covered with muddy water.

Russian River bridge on 1st Street east of Cloverdale


This bridge is on CA-128 east of Geyserville.

Russian River bridge on CA-128 east of Geyserville.


The next one south is the Jimtown Bridge from 1949 on Alexander Valley Road east of Healdsburg.  This is a highly unusual continuous Warren pony truss that also has cantilevered girder approach spans.

Russian River bridge on Alexander Valley Road east of Healdsburg


Another.  Love the trusses on this one.



Then, on Healdsburg Avenue in downtown Healdsburg, the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge from 1921, a metal 10 Panel Pin-Connected Pennsylvania Through Truss.

Russian River bridge on Healdsburg Ave. in Healdsburg


And immediately north of it, this railroad bridge from 1921.  It’s unusual in that the two spans are of different construction.  The larger is a metal 7 Panel Pin-Connected Camelback Through Truss, while the smaller is a metal 4 Panel Rivet-Connected Pratt Through Truss.

Russian River railroad bridge in Healdsburg


And now, a geographic interlude.  Just south of the above bridge, the river, after flowing down the valley pretty much straight south for nearly a hundred miles, takes a sharp right turn and heads west, wending its way tediously through the hills for twenty miles until it finally reaches the ocean.  Oh please.

If i’d been in charge of things a few hundred millennia ago, i’d have dropped a big landslide onto this path, forcing the river to form a lake covering the area that is now occupied by Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Rohnert Park until the lake grew deep enough to overtop the pitiful little hundred-foot ridge west of Cotati and could then become the source of the Petaluma River.  And then in a mere millennium or so, it would have carved out a channel deep enough to drain the lake, leaving behind all that rich farmland.

Better yet, as it increased the volume of the Petaluma River by thousands fold, our current sinuous estuary would have been scoured out into a nice, straight shot at San Pablo Bay, making Petaluma a thriving port city rather than the sleepy little farm town it is now.

We can dream, can’t we?


As it is, on the morning of 18 November, i headed west on River Road toward Guerneville and turned off on Wohler Road to shoot my first west-bound Russian River bridge.  The Wohler Bridge from 1921 is a metal 10 Panel Pin-Connected Parker Camelback Through Truss.  It’s a one-lane bridge, so you have to pause at your end and see whether someone has already started crossing from the other end.  On a foggy morning like this one, you need to look carefully.

Russian River bridge at Wohler Road

Actually, i have some history with that bridge.  On summer weekends in the late seventies, hundreds of people would park their cars in the space at the north end of the bridge and go down to a secluded beach on the river, where they would frolic in the warm water and take breaks for picnicking on the beach and screwing in the woods.  Some of ’em may have even marveled at the bridge.

Now down to the far end, where there’s some sun burning through.

Russian River bridge on Wohler Road


Next up, on River Road, the Hacienda Bridge from 1914, a metal 7 Panel Pin-Connected Camelback Through Truss.  I know it’s possible to get good photos of this one, both from beaches on the river and, using a telephoto lens, from hilltops to the southeast.  Didn’t have the patience to track down either this morning, so here’s all i could get.

Russian River Hacienda Bridge


It’s such a handsome bridge, though, that i’ll cheat and throw in this unattributed pic from the website.

Russian River Hacienda Bridge


Westward to downtown Guerneville, where there are two bridges over the river.  The historic steel bridge from 1922 is a metal 7 Panel Pin-Connected Camelback Through Truss.  It’s no longer fit for vehicular traffic but still in use for pedestrians.

Russian River bridge Guerneville


From its roadbed.

Russian River bridge Guerneville


And here’s the new bridge, as seen from the old bridge.

Russian River bridge Guerneville


Now west to Monte Rio for the Bohemian Highway Bridge from 1934, a metal 6 Panel Rivet-Connected Pratt Full-Slope Pony Truss.

Russian River bridge Monte Rio


Finally, on out to the coast, where we find this CA-1 bridge over the mouth of the river.

Russian River bridge CA-1 at the mouth of the river


That’s it, folks, all the bridges over the Russian River.

Ummm, well, as i was writing this i discovered that while i was doing my meticulous research, i’d unaccountably failed to list a major bridge in my notes and thus didn’t photograph it.  I went back later and got it, but i inserted it only into the Russian River Bridges photoessay, which also includes the bridges over the East Fork.

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  1. ckm
    Posted 20 November 2016 at 05:54 | Permalink

    “, a metal 10 Panel Pin-Connected Pennsylvania Through Truss.”

    You made this up, didn’t you?

    • Posted 20 November 2016 at 07:27 | Permalink

      We here at Matte Gray have a sordid history of making things up to brighten otherwise dull posts, but we also love to insert abstruse, perfectly real data….in this case from the website on California Historical Bridges.

  2. David Ogden
    Posted 20 November 2016 at 10:03 | Permalink

    Many of these bridges are just CalTransy overpassy kinds of bridges. The fun ones are the older ones as you came further south. I’m also impressed by your command of bridge nomenclature, such as “a metal 10 Panel Rivet-Connected Polygonal Warren Pony Truss.”

    Cooper would relish the opportunity to give you a drone lesson.

    • Posted 20 November 2016 at 12:31 | Permalink

      A problem even greater than getting access from which i could take photos was making many of the “CalTransy overpassy”!!! bridges look good. Some of the newer, larger ones have a certain grace, but OMG are most of the smaller and somewhat older ones ugly. Still, they have to be in the essay. After all, it’s not “The Beautiful Old Bridges Over the Russian River”.

      I’m no engineer, so i have no understanding of bridge nomenclature, but i add it to my bridge essays when i can find it. My goal is to be able to distinguish a Pennsylvania Through Truss from a Warren Pony Truss at a glance.

      Drone lesson? Oh please. What i need to do is just hire Cooper to take the drone shots. Not only is he young enough to intuitively understand and operate the technology, but also he has the Ogden-Biagi eye for photography. Win-win.

  3. Laura Lucinda
    Posted 28 November 2016 at 05:31 | Permalink

    Import alligators & it will be like Louisiana. It will hinder vagrant occupancy, too.

    • Posted 28 November 2016 at 07:39 | Permalink

      Ummm, not sure alligators would find northern California to their liking, and it’ll take more than alligators to make us like Louisiana.

  4. Laura Lucinda
    Posted 28 November 2016 at 05:42 | Permalink

    Warning, if you are offered drone lessons, do NOT use your own drone. They will take it from you & laugh. Be cautious, obsever their skill with their own device. Then, think of a proper, safe local to reveal your drone. Also, remotes can intercept the control of yours, rendering your stuff useless to you. Completely in another’s wreckless care.

    • Posted 28 November 2016 at 07:41 | Permalink

      Ummmm, my wanting a drone is pretty much a fantasy as i’m not sure i could learn to operate one.

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