What is now Downieville began in 1848 as three flats divided by the confluence of the Downie River and the North Yuba River. The area that is now downtown Downieville was “The Forks,” the area on the east side of the Downie River was “Jersey Flat,” and the area on the south side of the North Yuba River was “Durgan Flat.”
In order to span the rivers and develop a community on the only flat ground in the area, bridges were designed and built, with the most prominent being the Durgan Bridge and Jersey Bridge. The Durgan Bridge runs north-south over the North Yuba River on Nevada Street, and the Jersey Bridge runs north-south over the Downie River on Highway 49.
The California State Parks Office of Historic Preservation is currently reviewing both bridges as nominations for the National Register for Historic Places.
At one time the home and offices of William Stuart, the first senator of Nevada, were located at the courthouse end of the Durgan Bridge. Here he was visited by Ulysses S. Grant, documented in Grant’s autobiography, published in 1875.
"Tin Cup Diggins,” the site of historic gold panning, is located at the fork of the Downie and Yuba Rivers extending northwards, crossing under the east end of the Highway 49 bridge. Currently part of the property is a County park, leased from the owners of the adjacent Masonic Hall.
The Jersey Bridge, located on Highway 49, also known as the Yuba River Scenic Byway, was erected following the 1937 flood. This hand-riveted bridge is the only single lane bridge in the California Highway System. National Geographic Guide to Small Town Escapes (2000) highlighted Downieville and mentions the bridge,
“A trestle bridge spans the Downie River just above its juncture with the North Yuba River, and there, if you have any aspiration to continue into northern California’s high country, you must wait your turn because the bridge is only wide enough for one lane of traffic. The narrow bridge provides one assurance that Downieville will likely never be more than the very small town it has always been.”
The Jersey Bridge was also the location of one of Downieville's most notorious historical events. In August 1851, the London Times printed the story on the lynching of “Juanita,” a Mexican woman named Josepha Loaiza, from the bridge that was in this location.