Rattlesnake Bridge

I’ve known about the remains of the Rattlesnake Bar Bridge at Folsom Lake for several years; this month I was finally able to go out and see it for myself. Before Folsom Dam was built in 1955, quite a number of small communities and isolated dwellings — not to mention mining concerns — dotted both sides of the American River. For a fascinating look back in time at what it was like to grow up on the El Dorado County side of the Rattlesnake Bar Bridge, check out this wonderful blog post by Kevin Knauss, Going Home with John Downs to Wild Goose Flat.

The Rattlesnake Bar Bridge was located on the North Fork five miles south of Auburn on the Placer and El Dorado County line. William Gwynn built the bridge in 1863 to transport lime from his lucrative quarry operation. Gwynn also owned nearby Alabaster Cave, a local tourist attraction. The tollhouse was on the El Dorado County side of the bridge and also served as the post office in the 1880s — from Images of America: American River Canyon

North (Placer County) pillar in the foreground; south (El Dorado County) pillar, with concrete addition, in the background

In the 1950s, the load limit on the bridge was 8 tons

In the 1870s, tolls for the Rattlesnake Bar and other toll bridges ranged from $1.50 for a four-horse wagon to 50¢ for a horse and rider… El Dorado and Placer Counties bought out the toll operation on September 4, 1888. From this point on, the public had free use of the bridge — from Images of America: American River Canyon

Fragments of the old road leading to the bridge crossing

On December 21, 1954, Gene MacKerricker drove his truck onto the Rattlesnake Bar Bridge. The total 75,000-pound weight of his truck and load collapsed the entire bridge. MacKerricker was unhurt. The bridge was not rebuilt as it had been scheduled for demolition as part of the new Folsom Reservoir project. At the time of its collapse, the bridge had been in use for over 100 years — from Images of America: American River Canyon

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