The Foresthill Bridge, which soars 730 feet above the stream bed of the American River's North Fork, is reputed to be the 3rd highest bridge in the United States and the tallest in California. The bridge opened for public use on Labor Day, 1973. The 2,428 foot long span, with piers only 16 feet shorter than those of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, was built at a cost of $13 million by the Bureau of Reclamation.
The bridge was built to span Auburn Lake, the reservoir that would have backed up into the North and Middle Fork canyons of the American River behind the Auburn Dam. If it had ever been built. The dam project was abandoned and the bridge now spans the North Fork canyon. The surrounding land is owned by the Auburn Recreation Area and is a favorite for outdoor enthusiasts.
The bridge is popular with movie makers and can be seen in the beginning of the action movie "xXx: in which Vin Diesel's character Xander Cage is seen driving a stolen red Chevrolet Corvette off of it, then jumping from the car mid-flight and parachuting to his accomplices at the bottom of the American River Canyon.
The bridge and the new Foresthill Road has made it safer and easier to reach the interesting and historic gold mining town of Foresthill, 17 miles east of Auburn. The Old Foresthill Road is still used by many people to enjoy the recreation of the American River Middle and North Fork confluence. Popular activities include gold panning, swimming, hiking, historic nature walks and access to the Eldorado side of the American River.
In the Fall of 2010, the Foresthill Bridge is scheduled to begin a 2 ½ year $70 million retrofit project. This will include a new paint-job, earthquake-proof structural stability and an increase in the height of the outer railings from 4’ to 8’. With Placer County targeting the bridge for repainting, one of the area’s time-tested monuments to love – true or otherwise – will disappear under a layer of latex. A walk along the south side – the one with the best view of the American River confluence and canyon stretching out into the distance – is a heady experience. It’s 730 feet straight down and, other than seeing the world from the top deck of a skyscraper in a large city, you’re not going to find that kind of view elsewhere in California.
It’s an inspiring place and for couples in love, the light-green surface on the metal railings, has been a canvas to inscribe their devotion and commemorate a shared elation. Hundreds of inscriptions have been etched deep enough in the paint to reveal the orange undercoat. Oxidation over years or even decades has left those indelible messages for subsequent generations to ponder and etch around themselves with whatever sharp object is at hand. The hundreds of combinations of initials and names of 35 years of amore’ is an inspirational peek into a point in people’s lives where they have been swept up in a moment of heightened joy. On a pea-green bridge hovering over a canyon near Auburn, love has reigned supreme.
For “TG + JB Forever,” “Jerry + Sue 2/18/78,” “Kenneth + Donna 1979,” “Happy Valentines Day 98 Love AC,” “Gary + Mary Oct 75,” “Mike Mary 8-5-78,” “Greg + Mary 1980,” and all the others, whether that day on the Foresthill bridge is remembered or forgotten, time’s running out on your symbols of undying love. - Excerpts from Gus Thompson, Auburn Journal
Foresthill Bridge is accessible from HWY 80 East exit 121 Foresthill/Auburn Ravine Rd. Follow the signs to Foresthill and you'll cross the bridge within a few hundred yards before heading up Foresthill road. Parking is available on either side of the bridge for Pedestrians to traverse the bridge.