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Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge

Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge is a span which crosses the Tuolumne River via Roberts Ferry Road south of California State Route 132 in Stanislaus County.  Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge was dedicated during February 2000 as replacement span for an earlier truss span which was damaged by floods on the Tuolumne River in 1997.  Despite the modern design of the Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge the site of Robert's Ferry was once part of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road which served as the primary highway through San Joaquin Valley during the California Gold Rush.  


Part 1; the history of Robert's Ferry

The history of Robert's Ferry can be found on a historic plaque found at the intersection of California State Route 132 and Roberts Ferry Road.


Robert's Ferry was originally located approximately 3/8th of a mile downstream from the present Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge.  Doctor B.D. Horr established a ferry crossing of the Tuolumne River during 1850 at the height of the California Gold Rush.  The ferry established by Doctor Horr was sold to a man named Dickenson and later a man named Osborn.  John W. Roberts later purchased the ferry on the Tuolumne River in 1862.  During 1865 John Roberts moved the ferry location at the Tuolumne River to the present location of the Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge.  Robert's Ferry was known as the primary crossing of the Tuolumne River on the Stockton-Los Angeles Road (displayed as the Old Stockton-Mariposa Road).  

Although the California Gold Rush was mainly centered around the northern extent of the Sierra Nevada Mountains it was wasn't long before additional claims were made further south.  By 1853 gold claims were struck along the Kern River which led to the Kern River Gold Rush.  Prior to the discovery of gold along the Kern River most travelers in San Joaquin Valley utilized El Camino Veijo which was routed west of Tulare Lake.   

Upon the discovery of gold claims along the Kern River the entirety of the Sierra Nevada Mountains had become attractive for prospectors looking to make money on the new mining claims.  El Camino Viejo being routed west of the Tulare Lake watershed was suddenly no longer a viable route for the majority of travelers through San Joaquin Valley.  A new stage route from Stockton to Los Angeles following the Sierra Nevada Foothills along the eastern edge of San Joaquin Valley was established which came largely to be known as the Stockton-Los Angeles Road.  

The 1857 Britton & Rey's Map of California displays Dickenson's Ferry on the Stockton-Los Angeles Road.  


During the 1870s the Southern Pacific Railroad constructed a new line through San Joaquin Valley along with a new frontage road.  The construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad brough flood control measures which shifted the primary route of travel from the Sierra Nevada Mountain foothills westward into San Joaquin Valley.  Ultimately the construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad led to the decline of the Stockton-Los Angeles Road as a travel corridor.  The 1873 Bancroft's Map of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona doesn't even display Robert's Ferry (shown as Dickenson's Ferry) as being located on the primary stage road between Modesto and Hornitos.  


Robert's Ferry can be seen below in an undated photo from a John P. Soule stereoview (courtesy Jon Hicks). 


Robert's Ferry can be seen below in an undated photo from a Thomas Houseware & Company stereoview (courtesy Jon Hicks). 


Below a drawing of Robert's Ferry can be seen as was published in the 1881 History of Stanislaus County by L.C. Branch (courtesy Jon Hicks). 


Robert's Ferry was ultimately replaced by a wooden bridge over the Tuolumne River in 1887.  The wooden Roberts Ferry Bridge was replaced later by a steel truss span in 1915.  The 1915 Roberts Ferry Bridge would continue to serve as part of Roberts Ferry Road until being wiped by flooding on the Tuolumne River in 1997.  The destruction of the 1915 Roberts Ferry Bridge led to the construction of the Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge which was dedicated on February 5th, 2000.  Below the Stanislaus County sourced photos (sourced from a post by Nathan Holth on bridgehunter.com) show the 1915 Roberts Ferry Bridge compared to the 2000 Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge. 




Part 2; a drive on the Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge

Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge can be accessed from California State Route 132 by turning south towards the Tuolumne River at Roberts Ferry Road.  






The view below faces north towards Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge.  The covered portion of the Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge is just a facade for what is a largely traditional concrete structure.  Roberts Ferry Covered Bridge is 440 feet long, has a 19.4-foot-wide roadway, a 13.5-foot vertical clearance and modern pedestrian walking paths.


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