I’d like to revisit the Memorial Day post where I mentioned that rain was not uncommon for Del Norte County at this time of year. As Rick and I were driving over the Hiouchi Bridge last weekend, we reminisced about a rainy Memorial Day weekend from the past.
Until 1989, the Hiouchi Bridge was this rare and beautiful cantilever truss bridge that spanned the Smith River along Highway 199. Built in the 1920s, it was already scheduled for replacement when its demise was abruptly hastened. On March 31, 1989 this historic structure suffered serious damage when an overheight, overweight truck crane struck two of the cross frames on its south side.
Traffic was rerouted onto Highway 197 for nearly 2 years while the new replaced the old. During construction of the new bridge, the contractor ceased operations for Memorial Day weekend, leaving a large diesel CAT on the river bar below the bridge site. Guess what? It rained . . . and it rained . . . and it rained all weekend. The wild and scenic Smith River can rise dramatically with a few days of rain. When the crew came back to work on Tuesday, they found that their heavy equipment had been drowned by the spring rains! It didn’t wash away, of course— it was still there on the river bar—but I’m sure it needed major repairs before being put back into service.
Though the new bridge serves very well, I sure love the look of the old one. Here they are, side by side:
If you’d like to read more about the construction of the old Hiouchi Bridge and the accident that speeded up its replacement, here’s a link to a fascinating Historic American Engineering Record of the account.