The Fernbridge near the city of Ferndale in Humboldt County was completed during 1911 over the Eel River and presently a component of California State Route 211. Upon opening, the Fernbridge was then the longest concrete arch bridge in the world. The Fernbridge is often touted as the precursor span which inspired similar arch concrete bridge designs which were constructed during the early twentieth century in California. The Fernbridge stood against flooding on the Eel River during 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1937, 1953, 1955, 1964, and 1986. During 1987 Caltrans recommended replacing the Fernbridge with a modern span which sparked a local movement to preserve the structure. The Fernbridge has also withstood numerous earthquakes including the 1992 Cape Mendocino Earthquakes and the Ferndale Earthquake of December 2022. The cover photo of this blog is the Fernbridge as depicted in the September 1950 California Highways & Public Works Centennial edition.
Part 1; the history of the Fernbridge
The Fernbridge serves as the primary connection between Ferndale and Eureka via the Eel River. Ferndale was established during 1852 and quickly grew in importance along the isolated North Coast of California. Ferndale incorporated as a City during August of 1893 and boasts a present population of approximately 1,400 residents.
The May/June 1964 California Highways & Public Works referenced the early history of the highway between Ferndale and Eureka. During July 1865 the Eel River & Mattole Plank Turnpike Company was formed with the goal of constructing a stage road from Petrolia north to Eureka via Ferndale and Table Bluff. Construction of the highway between Petrolia-Eureka began during 1869 and was completed by 1871. According to visitferndale.com the stage route north of Ferndale was connected to Eureka via the Eel River crossings of Singley's Ferry, Robinson's Ferry and East's Ferry. When the Eel River was low during the midst of dry periods temporary low water bridges would be set up for stages to cross.
Singley's Ferry and Robinson's Ferry can be seen connecting Ferndale and Eureka on the 1882 Bancroft's Map of California. East's Ferry is not displayed but connected what is now Ferry Road to Drake Hill Road. The stage route over Singley's Ferry can be seen directly connecting Ferndale to Eureka via Table Bluff.
The August 1934 California Highways and Public Works announced the first run of Sign State Routes. California State Route 1 was applied to Legislative Route Number 56 from Las Cruces northward towards Fortuna via the Fernbirdge.
The Fernbridge can be seen as part of California State Route 1 and Legislative Route Number 56 on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Humboldt County.
A 75th Anniversary celebration was held on the Fernbridge on November 16, 1986. 2,500 are noted to have attended the 75th Anniversary of the Fernbridge. Then President Ronald Reagan sent a note of greetings to the residents of Eel River Valley as they celebrated the 75th Anniversary of Humboldt County's "Queen of Bridges." 1986 coincidentally the last year major flooding occurred along the Eel River at the Fernbridge.
From US Route 101 southbound, California State Route 211 can be accessed at Exit 692. From Exit 692 there are no California State Route 211 reassurance shields.
California State Route 211 from US Route 101 is signed as 5 miles from Ferndale.
California State Route 211 south enters the community of Fernbridge at Post Mile HUM 78.586.