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California State Route 283; former US Route 101 over the Rio Dell Bridge

This week we examine one of California's shortest State Highways; California State Route 283.  California State Route 283 includes the 1941 Rio Dell Bridge and is a former segment of US Route 101.  The photo below is the Rio Dell Bridge after the 1964 Christmas Floods which wiped out the northern approach span. 


California State Route 283 ("CA 283") is a 0.36 Mile State Highway between modern US Route 101/Redwood Highway and the community of Rio Dell in Humboldt County.  The key feature of CA 283 is the 1941 Rio Dell Bridge which was the second alignment of US Route 101.  The Rio Dell Bridge connected Scotia north over the Eel River via Wildwood Avenue to Rio Dell.  The Rio Dell Bridge is a steel truss design which 1,643.1 feet in length.  The Rio Dell Bridge is also known as; North Scotia Bridge, Eel River Bridge, Scotia-Rio Dell Bridge, Albert Stanwood Murphy Memorial Bridge, and the Eagle Prairie Bridge.  CA 283 is unsigned presently ranks as the second shortest State Highway only behind the barely existing CA 225.




Part 1; the history of the Rio Dell Bridge and California State Route 283

The communities of Scotia and Rio Dell were part of Legislative Route 1 ("LRN 1").  LRN 1 was known as the Redwood Highway and was originally defined as a route between San Francisco north to Crescent City.  LRN 1 was part of the 1909 First State Highway Bond act which was approved by voters during 1910 according to CAhighways.org.  LRN 1/Redwood Highway first appears under state maintenance on the 1918 Division of Highways State Map.


During November 1926 the US Route System was created.  Subsequently US Route 101 was aligned north of San Francisco through the communities of Scotia and Rio Dell en route to Oregon.  US Route 101 appears as the highway through Scotia and Rio Dell on the 1926 Rand McNally Highway Map


Early US 101/LRN 1 appear on the 1935 Division of Highways Map of Humboldt County.


The March 1940 California Highway & Public Works Guide ("CHPW") details the construction of the North Scotia Bridge (the original name of the Rio Dell Bridge) and Robinson Ferry Bridge as new alignments of US 101/LRN 1.  The CHPW articles cites that prior to the completion of bridges on the Eel River during 1914 traffic had to utilize ferries to cross north of Scotia (note; a bridge between Rio Dell and Scotia existed previously but was wiped out by floods in 1905).  The ferry routes were replaced with steel structures built by Humboldt County which had 17 foot wide road decks.  The new Rio Dell Bridge and Robinson Ferry Bridge were cited to be of a steel truss construction with 26 foot wide road decks.  Both the Rio Dell Bridge and Robinson Ferry Bridge were cited to have an anticipated opening of July 1941.  Detailed drawings of the Rio Dell Bridge and Robinson Ferry Bridge are shown in the March 1940 CHPW.






The Rio Dell Bridge, Robinson Ferry Bridge, and the Smith River Bridge in Del Norte County were all dedicated during ceremonies on March 27th-28th 1941 according to the April 1941 CHPW.  All three bridges were cited to be part of the National Defense Highway System which meant they were a priority during World War II.  The original Redwood Highway/LRN 1 steel structure can be seen next to the Rio Dell Bridge during the dedication ceremony and is cited to have been condemned.











The planned freeway realignment of US Route 101 east of Rio Dell and Scotia is discussed in the January/February 1964 CHWP.


The Rio Dell Bridge is shown to be damaged in the January/February 1965 CHPW during the Christmas 1964 floods on the Eel River.  The Rio Dell Bridge is referred to as the "North Scotia Bridge."


The broken northern approach to the Rio Dell Bridge is shown to have been functionally reopened via a single temporary in the March/April 1965 CHPW.  Oddly the Rio Dell Bridge is referred to as the "Scotia-Rio Dell Bridge."



The March/April 1965 CHPW states that prior to the Rio Dell Bridge being reopened to automotive traffic the gap in the north span was temporarily bridged via a foot span.


According to the March/April 1965 CHPW the temporary one-lane north approach span to the Rio Dell Bridge was completed by January 13th 1965.  Blue Slide Road is stated to have been pressed into duty as temporary US Route 101.


The March/April CHPW 1965 cites permanent repairs to the Rio Dell Bridge carried an estimated cost of $223,304.25 dollars.


The May/June 1965 CHPW cites the Rio Dell Bridge was anticipated to have been fully repaired by August 1965.


According to CAhighways.org CA 283 was defined by 1970 Legislative Chapter 1473 via transfer from US 101.  The original route definition of CA 283 was "Route 101 south of Rio Dell to the north end of the Eel River Bridge and Overhead in Rio Dell."  According to the North Coast Journal the US 101 bypass of Rio Dell was completed in 1973.  Unlike the Rio Dell Bridge the Robinson Ferry Bridge was retained as the northbound lanes of modern US 101.  The Rio Dell Bridge and Robinson Ferry Bridge were likely retained under state maintenance due to the considerable costs associated with repairing them during 1965.  CA 283 first appears on the 1975 Caltrans State Map.


The Rio Dell Bridge was officially named the "Albert Stanwood Murphy Bridge" during 1977 according to CAhighways.org.  The modern name of the "Eagle Prairie Bridge" was adopted during 1990.  "Eagle Prairie" is a reference to a former name for the community of Rio Dell.


Part 2; a virtual drive on California State Route 283

Our virtual drive on CA 283 begins in Rio Dell headed south on Wildwood Avenue approaching the Rio Dell Bridge.  At the intersection with Bridge Street a shield directing traffic to US Route 101 can be seen.  CA 283 begins at Post Mile HUM 0.356 just south of Bridge Street.  Wildwood Avenue is another reference to a former name of the community of Rio Dell which began as a logging town.  Note; the images below are taken from Google Street View.


Below the northern approach to the Rio Dell Bridge can be seen looking south on CA 283.  It is hard to envision the foot span put in place following the 1964 Christmas floods on the Eel River.


CA 283 southbound crosses the Rio Dell Bridge and the Eel River.




Upon crossing the Rio Dell Bridge CA 283 southbound takes a left hand turn onto Scotia Court and ends at modern US 101/Redwood Highway.  Former US 101 in Scotia can be accessed by staying on Wildwood Avenue which becomes Main Street.



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