The Magnificent Bridge In Northern California That Needs To Be Seen At Least Once
The Rainbow Bridge on Old Highway 40 above Donner Lake and Truckee is an iconic vision in the Sierra Nevada. It was built in the 1920s and is also known as the Donner Memorial Bridge. It’s surrounded by granite boulders and windswept trees, making it a photographer’s dream location in any season.
The Donner Memorial Bridge is an amazing overlook to take in the area around Truckee. In this photo, you can see the Carson Range in Nevada all the way to the east.
The bridge is simple in design, but it's a stunning piece of architecture.
Rainbow Bridge was a common design for the 1920s. Other bridges with similar designs were constructed at Yuba Gap, Big Sur, Redding, and Folsom. Rainbow was unique because of its placement: it was on a grade, and had a compound curve that had never been attempted before. The final 1925 construction report says, "The alignment consists of a series of compound curves; there being a 360 foot radius curve over the arch and a 145 ft radius over each approach span."
Located on Old Highway 40, the bridge may look antiquated compared to the new nearby pass on Interstate 80. At the time it was built, however, it made traversing Donner Summit much easier.
This is the location where the infamous Donner Party was stuck in the 1800s. The group of pioneers was unable to cross the pass and had to resort to cannibalism to survive.
I-80 wasn't constructed until 1964, so there were quite a few automobiles over the years who depended on this route from Nevada into California. This historic photo shows an old car making its way up to the summit.
In addition to plenty of hiking trails, including the iconic pacific crest trail, the Rainbow Bridge area also boasts old snow sheds that covered the railroads.
Donner Summit is a place of incredible beauty and a drive up to the bridge is always quite the experience.
Some have suggested the wreck seen here is a 1954 V8 Cadillac, but no one knows for certain. It's definitely a site with a lot of history, however. You're almost bound to run into old relics around here from time to time.
When the Transcontinental Railroad was built in 1867, Chinese immigrants built rock retaining walls. This plaque is located near Rainbow bridge and commemorates their efforts.
We’re lucky to live in Northern California where we are surrounded by such incredible nature and history. Have you visited this beautiful and historic bridge in the Sierra?
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