Foresthill Bridge

The Foresthill Bridge: A Bridge over a Reservoir that Never Was

Earlier this year I had fallen into an internet search blackhole, learning about dams in California, and the sometime bizarre “recreation” opportunities they provide. I think it had started with looking up dams that were hoping to profit from the passing of Proposition 2. It was like a cemetery of hopeful but ill-fated large expensive dams, now forgotten except by the  local politicians still clinging to old plans.

In my search I found the “doomed” Auburn Lake, which was dreamed of – had a $13 million bridge built in preparation of – and then was postponed indefinitely due to seismic concerns, than economic ones. Today the technology exists to make an Auburn Dam possible, but the lean water storage capacity and high construction costs make the venture largely unappealing. Apparently the bridge alone needs a $70 million retrofit.

Foresthill Bridge over the doomed Auburn Lake

While reading about the doomed Auburn Lake I had read about the Foresthill Bridge, which is this immensely tall bridge – the tallest in California and 4th tallest in the US – built over nothing but the American River Flowing over 700 ft below. It’s absurd. Of course I instantly wanted to see it for myself.

Foresthill Bridge, Foresthill, CA

Directions: From I-80 turn exit onto Foresthill rd and continue about a 1 mile east until you reach the bridge. Map

While visiting Foresthill earlier this month I drove over the bridge and all these fun facts came rushing back to me. I then strongly advocated for a visit, and luckily it was an easy sell considering you pretty much have to go over the bridge to get to anywhere from Foresthill. Yes, it’s ridiculous to have such a big bridge here, but it really does make the driving time much shorter!

To visit the bridge simply drive up to one of the many pullouts and park – there is a nice sidewalk area on both edges of the bridge. California did construct very tall businesslike rails onto the walkway to dissuade jumpers, but there is enough room to see through the rails. You can see people walking on the American River Trails below, like little specks moving under and away from the large shadow cast by this imposing man made structure.

Foresthill Bridge, Auburn CA

Vistas over the American River from the Foresthill Bridge. , You can almost see people enjoying some non-reservoir related recreation down on the trail beneath the bridge.