Trip Ideas

Donner Memorial Bridge or the Rainbow Bridge in summer with granite outcroppings below it and Donner Lake in the distance

Must See Bridges of Nevada County

Take a tour of Nevada County’s bridges. They don’t just connect communities but are destinations in and of themselves.

Tips & Resources

Connect Edwards Crossing and Purdon Crossing bridges as a hike via the South Yuba River trail

For more information about the bridge, please visit the South Yuba River State Park’s Website

If it’s your first time visiting or your hundredth we urge you to follow the “Leave No Trace” principles

By Alex Silgalis

If you love architecture, enjoy history, or simply want to enjoy the beauty of your surroundings, the bridges of Nevada County should be on your itinerary. These iconic bridges are often taken for granted. But, this visual tour will remind you just how varied and attractive the county’s bridges are.

Donner Memorial Bridge

Looking up at Donner Memorial Bridge surrounded by granite and sagebrush on a summer's day
Photo by: Lazy Fox Photography

The Rainbow Bridge, as some like to call it, is one of the most unique bridges, not just in the county, but arguably in all of California. Why? First, it’s perched in an unusual location high atop Donner Summit. Then, there’s the engineering marvel of accommodating its steep angle and curvature. Finally, the scenic views of Donner Lake in the background make it feel like a postcard. Instead of rushing to Truckee via I-80, make a detour to this hidden gem of Nevada County and the Lincoln Highway Donner Pass Road known as “Old Highway 40.”

Bridgeport Bridge

Built in 1862, the Bridgeport Covered Bridge was a crucial part of the Virginia Turnpike Company toll road, serving the northern mines of California such as the small town of Washington and the bustling Nevada Comstock Lode during the Gold and Silver Rushes. As one of the oldest covered spans in the West and the longest single-span wood-covered bridge in the country, it stands as a significant reminder of this historical era.

Purdon Bridge

Yet another example of a key conduit to the northern gold mines of California. The difference being the wooden bridges here were repeatedly washed away in floods, prompting a more durable version. The current steel bridge, built in 1895 by the Cotton Brothers of Oakland, remains today. Architecturally unique, it is the only bridge remaining in California that uses the Half-through Truss design.

Edwards Crossing

About four miles east up the South Yuba River, you’ll find another iconic bridge in Nevada County – Edwards Crossing. This beautiful green steel bridge spans 114 feet. It also features an unusual three-hinged metal arch, with triangular members and steel pins connecting to a wooden roadway. Built in 1904, it provided access to and from the mining town of North Bloomfield and the Malakoff Diggins mine. Today, the mine and the ghost town of North Bloomfield are part of Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, one of four State Historic Parks in Nevada County.

You can connect Edwards Crossing and Purdon Crossing as a hike via the South Yuba River trail. The canyon’s spectacular cliffs and topography of this trail offers breathtaking views of the Wild and Scenic River.

The “Old Bridge” at 49er Crossing

The 49er crossing bridge is the start of one of the most scenic drives in Nevada County. This site features a modern bridge built in 1993 and an older bridge, now a pedestrian walkway, located a few hundred yards upstream. The original bridge was completed in early 1922. Prior to its construction, traffic to North San Juan or Downieville crossed the river at Purdon’s Crossing Bridge, about 5 miles upstream, or at the Jones Bar Bridge, which was dismantled in 1918, one mile downstream.

Support a Local Artist

If you like any of these photos, prints are on sale and can be purchased via Lazy Fox Photography.


Alex Silgalis

Alex founded Local Freshies® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

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