A World of Rhododendrons
A World of Rhododendrons
April 28, 2019

Albion River Bridge 75th anniversary!

Landmark Albion River Bridge connecting the world to the Mendocino Coast set to celebrate the 75th anniversary! For centuries, timber trestle bridges served communities all over the world, the US and even right here in the early days of California. Until the early 20th century, these mostly railroad bridges transported logs and other goods up and down the California Coast and trestle bridges for cars were vital to settling areas like Mendocino and it’s surroundings.

But one historic wooden trestle bridge was actually built right here back in 1943 – 1944! In order to span the 130 foot wide Albion River crossing, a mighty bridge was needed. Steel and concrete were in short supply during WWII. Approved in 1942 by Charles H. Purcell, Director of the California Dept of Public Works and signed off by the Governor, Earl Warren, the final design was a marvel of engineering.

Built with 825,000 board feet of pressure-treated Douglas fir – wood with the compressive strength of 7,230 pounds per square inch and wood most used for timber trestle bridges – and a salvaged steel truss from an abandoned lumber company railroad bridge to span the river, the 969 feet long bridge came in at a cost of $370,000! The bridge was dedicated on June 11, 1944 in grand style. 1,500 people were present as Master of Ceremonies, 87-year-old Mrs. Marion Haarby cut the hemp cord opening the Albion River Bridge to traffic.

Following the dedication, a party of dignitaries motored up the Coast to Rockport and through the Leggett Valley. Then, traveling south on the Redwood Highway, the party ended their day in Willits. There, joined by the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors, the Mendocino County Chamber of Commerce and the Willits Chamber of Commerce, they were treated to a reception and dinner at the American Legion Hall.

At over 14 stories tall, this bridge has served the Mendocino Coast well beyond its original 20 year estimated lifespan. Indeed, just last year, two world  renowned professional (PhD) engineers and timber bridge experts, inspected the Albion River Bridge and found it not only in “remarkably good condition” and “safe for continued use”, but estimated that, with continued maintenance and earthquake retrofitting, it has at least another 75 years of service left!

The Albion River Bridge joins two other famous California coastal bridges in the National Register of Historic Places, a distinction it earned on July 31, 2017. This listing affords national recognition and prestige for Mendocino County’s section of scenic Highway One, the Pacific Coast Highway. The other two California bridges singled out for national recognition along this highway are the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur and the Golden Gate Bridge spanning San Francisco Bay.

Both the Fort Bragg-Mendocino Coast Historical Society and the Mendocino County Historical Society have expressed their support for preserving this amazing bridge on both historical and esthetic grounds.

The Albion Bridge Stewards made up of members of the Albion community, Mendocino and Fort Bragg are also dedicated to the preservation and maintenance of this historically important bridge. They donate much of their time meeting with and communicating with both CalTrans and the California Coastal Commission to encourage them to maintain, repair and retrofit this gem of the Mendocino Coast. We hope they will ultimately agree.

If you want to marvel at the structure of this beautiful bridge, the best vantage points are from the Albion River Inn as well as from Albion Ridge Road just south of the bridge. To get up close and personal, drive down to the Albion River Campground and take a 5-minute walk to the lovely “pocket beach” beneath the bridge. Parking by the Campground Store and Snack Bar for one hour is free between 9 am and 7 pm.

Annemarie Weibel
Member, Albion Bridge Stewards