Bixby Creek Bridge

Bixby Creek Bridge

Bixby Creek Bridge, also known as Bixby Canyon Bridge, on the Big Sur coast of California, is one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design, "graceful architecture and magnificent setting". It is a reinforced concrete open-spandrel arch bridge. The bridge is 120 miles (190 km) south of San Francisco and 13 miles (21 km) south of Carmel in Monterey County on State Route 1.

Before the opening of the bridge in 1932, residents of the Big Sur area were virtually cut off during winter due to blockages on the often impassable Old Coast Road, which led 11 miles (18 km) inland. The bridge was built under budget for $199,861 (equivalent to $3.16 million in 2020 dollars) and, at 360 feet (110 m), was the longest concrete arch span in the California State Highway System. When it was completed, it was the highest single-span arch bridge in the world,...Read more

Bixby Creek Bridge, also known as Bixby Canyon Bridge, on the Big Sur coast of California, is one of the most photographed bridges in California due to its aesthetic design, "graceful architecture and magnificent setting". It is a reinforced concrete open-spandrel arch bridge. The bridge is 120 miles (190 km) south of San Francisco and 13 miles (21 km) south of Carmel in Monterey County on State Route 1.

Before the opening of the bridge in 1932, residents of the Big Sur area were virtually cut off during winter due to blockages on the often impassable Old Coast Road, which led 11 miles (18 km) inland. The bridge was built under budget for $199,861 (equivalent to $3.16 million in 2020 dollars) and, at 360 feet (110 m), was the longest concrete arch span in the California State Highway System. When it was completed, it was the highest single-span arch bridge in the world,: 45  and it remains one of the tallest.

The land north and south of the bridge was privately owned until 1988 and 2001. A logging company obtained approval to harvest redwood on the former Bixby Ranch to the north in 1986, and in 2000 a developer obtained approval to subdivide the former Brazil Ranch to the south. Local residents and conservationists fought their plans, and both pieces of land were eventually acquired by local and federal government agencies. A $20 million seismic retrofit was completed in 1996, although its 24-foot (7.3 m) width does not meet modern standards requiring bridges to be 32 feet (9.8 m) wide.

The land was historically occupied by the native Esselen people who visited the coast seasonally to harvest shellfish and to fish offshore. When the Spanish established the California mission system, only a very few were not baptized and conscripted, and they soon left the mountains to work on the nearby ranches.[1]: 114  Governor Juan Alvarado granted the land from present day Carmel south to Palo Colorado Canyon, two miles north of Bixby Creek, to Marcelino Escobar in 1839 as part of the Rancho San Jose y Sur Chiquito. The land was later acquired by Alvarado's brother-in-law José Castro. Castro noted the existence of on a Native American trail from Monterey to Palo Colorado Canyon in 1853, when he filed a map of his grant.[2][3]

Originally Mill Creek

Bixby Creek is named after pioneering Yankee businessman Charles Henry Bixby. Originally from Livingston County, New York, he arrived in California in 1852 and remained for five years. He returned east before coming back to California. After some success raising cattle in Sonoma County, he obtained a patent on April 10, 1889 for 160 acres (65 ha) south of Bixby Creek,[4] and later bought additional tracts of land on the north side of the creek, between it and Palo Colorado Canyon. He built a sawmill with a capacity of twelve thousand feet of lumber per day on the creek, which for many years was known as Mill Creek. He harvested timber and turned it into shakes, shingles, railroad ties, and trench posts. He also harvested the bark of the tanbark oak, which was used for tanning cow hides.[5] He built a landing chute and hoist to transfer the lumber to ships anchored slightly offshore. Schooners were moored to deadeyes embedded in rocks of the adjacent shore. Cargo was hoisted in slings from the landing along a cable winched onto the waiting ship.[6]

Bixby discovered lime deposits on Long Ridge above Mill Creek. He had kilns built and used mules to haul the lime to the coast on wooden sleds. It was impossible to build a wharf from the cliffs that dropped into the ocean, and he instead built a hoist that could be used to ferry goods to and from ships anchored slightly offshore.[7][8] The powdered lime was packed into barrels that were then attached to cable strung from the coastal cliff and about 50 yards out into the Pacific Ocean, where it was loaded aboard coastal schooners. He sold the fired lime for use in cement, mortar, and other building materials.[9]

Coast road extended south

Bixby tried to persuade the county to build a road to Bixby Creek, but they refused, replying that "no one would want to live there." In 1870, Bixby and his father hired men to improve the track and constructed the first wagon road including 23 bridges from the Carmel Mission to Bixby Creek.[10] Near Malpaso Creek, the creek has very steep side slopes and the crossing was a ford only 10 feet (3.0 m) above sea level until the Malpaso Creek Bridge was built in 1935 as part the Big Sur Coast Highway.

Sometime later Bixby partnered with William B. Post and extended what became known as the Old Coast Road south to his ranch. At Bixby Creek, the road was necessarily built 11 miles (18 km) inland to circumvent the deep canyon. It also went inland to circumvent the Little Sur River. It then led to the Post Ranch on the Rancho El Sur near present-day Andrew Molera State Park.[8][3]: 4–2  The 30-mile (48 km) trip from Carmel could take three days by wagon or stagecoach.[11]: 24  The single-lane road was closed in winter when it became impassable. Coast residents would occasionally receive supplies via a hazardous landing by boat from Monterey or San Francisco.[3]: 4–4 

Sold to lime company

In 1906, after he exhausted the supply of commercial timber, Bixby sold the land to the Monterey Lime Company. Lime was in great demand to help re-build San Francisco following the 1906 earthquake. The company built lime kilns 3 miles (4.8 km) up Bixby Canyon from the coast and mined the high grade limestone located in the area. To feed the limekiln fires, they cut much of the old growth redwood in the canyon. They built a 3 miles (4.8 km) aerial tram to haul the barrels of limestone from Long Ridge to Bixby Landing. A small group of homes grew up around the original Bixby Homestead. The kilns operated for four years until 1911 when a log jam during winter rains caused a flood in the canyon.[12] The tram was used for a while longer to off and on-load supplies for the community from schooners.[13]

Lumber harvesting proposed

In 1986 a portion of the land formerly owned by Bixby was held by Humboldt County-based Philo Lumber Company. They obtained a state permit to log over a million board feet of redwood. The residents of Palo Colorado Canyon were intensely opposed to the plan, but it was only derailed by the savings and loan crisis. The property was seized by federal financial regulators and was later sold to the Big Sur Land Trust for $1.2 million dollars in September 1987. The Trust agreed to hold the land for the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District until the district could secure funding through Proposition 70 or other means. The Trust's purchase was made possible only through a "bridge" loan made by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Big Sur Trust board member Nancy Hopkins was a daughter-in-law of Hewlett Packard founder David Packard and was the trust's first president.[14] The Trust sold the land to the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District in 1988. The district joined it with three adjacent properties to form the Mill Creek Redwood Preserve.[13]

Adler Ranch sale

In the 20th century, Axel Adler built a cabin on the former Bixby Ranch and gradually acquired more land. In 2013, a 1,199 acres (485 ha) portion of the 1,312 acres (531 ha) Adler Ranch was put on the market for $15 million. It is located at the end and south of Palo Colorado Road. It is adjacent to Los Padres National Forest, Mill Creek Redwoods Preserve, and includes the peak of Bixby Mountain and the upper portions of Mescal Ridge. The El Sur Ranch and Pico Blanco Mountain are to the south. The property is especially valuable because it includes nine legal parcels, five of which can be built on. The Big Sur Land Trust stated it is not interested in acquiring the property.[15][16][17]

The nonprofit Western Rivers Conservancy, which buys land with the goal to protect habitat and provide public access, secured a purchase agreement. It was interested in selling the land to the US Forest Service, which would make it possible for hikers to travel from Bottcher's Gap to the sea. But some local residents are opposed to the forest service acquiring the land. They are concerned about a lack of federal funding to maintain a critical fire break on the land.[16][15][17] On October 2, 2019, the California Natural Resources Agency announced it was seeking funding through Proposition 68, a bond measure approved by voters in 2018, to obtain the land for the tribe. The Adler family agreed to sell 1,199 acres (485 ha) of the Adler Ranch.[18] The land was purchased through a $4.52 million grant from the California Natural Resources Agency. In late July 2020 the purchase of the Adler Ranch successfully closed and the property was transferred to the Esselen tribe.[19] The land acquisition could help facilitate federal recognition of the tribe.[18][19]

Early resorts
Bixby Landing in 1911—known then as Hamilton's Landing on Mill Creek—was used to transport supplies and products to and from ships off shore.

A post office was established near the sawmill in the early 1880s and was then moved west to the mouth of the canyon. Thomas Fussell bought the land and then sold it to Horace Hogues. In 1919, Captain Howard G. and Frida Sharpe bought the Bixby Creek canyon property. Remnants of its prior use included an old ranch house, barn, corral, dance hall, stable, numerous out-buildings, and several cabins that they rented to visitors. Sharpe built a dirt road from the lodge up the canyon to Bixby Landing and another road down to the beach at the mouth of Bixby Creek.[12]

When the bridge was completed, the lodge on Bixby Creek was no longer on the route used by tourists. In 1931 Sharpe built a new stone Rainbow Lodge on the western shoulder of the highway immediately north of the bridge. The former lodge in the canyon bottom was abandoned. In 1938, Sharpe re-discovered a colony of California sea otters, thought to be extinct. More tourists came to see the sea otters and Sharpe added cabins and renamed it the Bixby Inn. A fire in 1941 burned what was left of the ranch on the canyon floor, and the Sharpes subdivided the property and sold parcels.[20][21][12]

The restaurant was closed at the beginning of World War II, when gas conservation regulations severely restricted non-essential travel. It was later sold to Gallatin Powers, who renamed it Gallatins, and later the Crocodile's Tail. Years later, the site was found to be geologically unsafe and in November 1953 the building was bulldozed over the cliff.[22]

Brazil Ranch
The Brazil Ranch on Serra Hill south of Bixby Creek on the Big Sur coast circa 1880s or 1890s

The former Brazil Ranch (also known as the Bixby Ocean Branch) is located on Serra Hill immediately south of Bixby Creek and the Bixby Creek Bridge, making it one of the most photographed spots on the Big Sur coast. Job Heath obtained a land patent on May 20, 1884 and he and his wife Serena Waters homesteaded the ranch.[23] Antonio Brazil married Mary Pfeiffer and they bought Heath's property.[24] The hill is not named for Junipero Serra, but is a corruption of the Spanish word, cerro, meaning "high hill."[25]

Acquired by Allen Funt

The Brazil family operated the 1,255 acres (508 ha) ranch for nearly a century. In 1977, Tony and Margaret Brazil sold the ranch to Allen Funt, creator of the television show Candid Camera. Funt raised quarter horses and cattle on it. He built a cabin and barn on the site and improved it for use as a ranch. After Funt had a stroke in 1993, he tried to interest environmental groups in buying the land without success.[26]

Subdivided by developer

After Funt died in 1999, land speculator Brian Sweeney and two partners, acting as Woodside Partners, a Las Vegas-based company, began nine months of negotiations to buy the property. Sweeney's lawyer unearthed long-forgotten records showing that the property was originally composed of nine land patents. He and his partners persuaded county officials to keep mum and bought the land for $9.2 million. As permitted by law, he obtained county permission to subdivide the land into nine parcels, vastly increasing its value.[27] He soon sold Funt's house and the parcel it stood on for $7.2 million.

Purchased by trust

Sweeney's actions stunned local community leaders and activists, who joined together to prevent him and his partners from subdividing and developing the land. Less than a year later, the Trust for Public Land bought the property for more than $26.25 million, almost tripling what the partners paid. On September 24, 2002, they and the U.S. Forest Service announced that the land had been added to the Los Padres National Forest.[26][28] While criticized by some for the huge profit they took in selling the property to the trust, a local real estate agent said if Sweeney and his partners had sold the land to private parties, they could have earned as much as $50 million.[29]

Public access

The public can enter the USFS land using an unmarked gate to a little-used dirt road on the east side of Highway 1, 0.1 miles (0.16 km) south of the Bixby Creek Bridge. There is no parking lot. Visitors can hike up a steep trail to the ridge overlooking the coast.[30][10]

Trail and road access

To allow access to the Mill Creek Redwood Preserve, a 2.7 miles (4.3 km) trail was built by hand over ten years from Palo Colorado Road to an overlook. The trail was closed in 2016 due to destruction from the Soberanes fire.[31] As of June 2020[update], the Palo Colorado Road is closed due to washouts caused by rains after the Soberanes Fire in 2017. To limit traffic on narrow Palo Colorado Road, access is limited to day use and only six permits per day are available. Visitors must obtain a permit in advance from the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District to visit the preserve. The trail head is located 6 miles (9.7 km) inland on Palo Colorado Road.[13][8] The Old Coast Road that the bridge replaced remains open to vehicles, weather permitting. The Old Coast Road from the north side of Bixby Creek is 11 miles (18 km) long, cutting inland across the Little Sur River, and ends near the northern border of Andrew Molera State Park, 8.3 miles (13.4 km) to the south along Highway 1.

Scenic designation

The bridge contributes to the scenic attraction of driving Highway 1. The 72 miles (116 km) section of the highway from Cambria to Carmel Highlands was the first in the state to be designated as a Scenic Highway in 1965.[32][33] In 1966 First Lady Lady Bird Johnson led the official scenic road designation ceremony at Bixby Creek Bridge.[34]

^ Pritzker, Barry M. (2000). A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0-19-513877-1. ^ "Diseño map of Rancho San Jose Y Sur Chiquito" (GLO No. 552 ed.). Monterey County, California. Archived from the original on October 12, 2016. Retrieved August 14, 2016. ^ a b c JRP Historical Consulting Services (November 2001). "Big Sur Highway Management Plan" (PDF). Corridor Intrinsic Qualities Inventory Historic Qualities Summary Report. CalTrans. p. 38. Archived (PDF) from the original on September 5, 2008. Retrieved November 14, 2009. ^ "Charles H Bixby, Patent #CACAAA-090682". The Land Patents. Retrieved August 20, 2016. ^ "Loading Chute Bixby Landing Aka Hamilton's Landing At Mill Creek 1885 by California Views Archives Mr Pat Hathaway Archives". Pixels. Retrieved March 23, 2019. ^ McGlynn, Betty Hoag (September 1, 1988). "Partington Landing: of Poets, Artists, and Ships in the Big Sur Country" (PDF). Noticias del Puerto de Monterey. The Monterey History and Art Association. 24 (3). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 23, 2019. Retrieved March 23, 2019. ^ Cite error: The named reference mchs was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ a b c Anderson, Corby. "Mill Creek Redwood Preserve Trail taps the serenity of Palo Colorado Canyon". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved August 12, 2016. ^ Cite error: The named reference spradling was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ a b Walton, John (2007). "The Land of Big Sur Conservation on the California Coast" (PDF). California History. 85 (1). Archived from the original (PDF) on August 22, 2015e. Retrieved August 14, 2016. ^ Elliott, Analise (2005). Hiking & Backpacking Big Sur. Berkeley, California: Wilderness Press. ^ a b c Williams, Honey. "Redwood Sanctuary" (PDF). Retrieved December 18, 2017. ^ a b c "Mill Creek Redwood Preserve". Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District. Archived from the original on September 19, 2016. Retrieved September 5, 2016. The tram remained in business for a time to off and on-load supplies for the community from schooners. Public Domain  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain. ^ "Founders". Big Sur Land Trust. Archived from the original on September 30, 2020. Retrieved July 28, 2016. ^ a b Counts, Chris (March 26, 2010). "Big Sur mountain is on the market: $15M". ^ a b Adler Ranch Big Sur ^ a b Schmalz, David. "A proposition to create more public land in Big Sur has some residents seeing red". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved March 19, 2018. ^ a b Shalev, Asaf. "The Esselen of Big Sur are landless no more, thanks to a $4.5 million state grant". Monterey County Weekly. Retrieved June 4, 2020. ^ a b Rogers, Paul (July 27, 2020). "Big Sur tribe regains land 250 years after being removed". The Mercury News. Retrieved July 28, 2020. ^ "History". Big Sur Coast Properties - Big Sur Real Estate. Retrieved December 15, 2017. ^ Cite error: The named reference caviews was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ [Monterey Peninsula Herald November 17, 1953] ^ "Job W Heath Sr, Patent #CACAAA-090653". Land Patents. Retrieved August 20, 2016. ^ Norman, Jeff (2004). Big Sur. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Pub. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-7385-2913-4. ^ Clark, Donald Thomas (1991). Monterey County Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Carmel Valley, Calif.: Kestrel Press. ISBN 9781880478011. OCLC 24504537. ^ a b McCabe, Michael (March 25, 2001). "Land Trust Saves Big Sur Ranch / Developer pockets $24 million after one-year ownership". SFGate. San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved February 28, 2018. ^ Starr, Kevin (2006). Coast of Dreams: California on the Edge, 1990-2003. New York: Vintage Books. p. 643. ISBN 978-0-679-74072-8. ^ "Big Sur Coastland Protected". Trust for Public Land. September 24, 2002. Archived from the original on September 21, 2016. Retrieved August 21, 2016. ^ Bailey, Eric (February 22, 2001). "Trust to Buy Key Big Sur Property". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 14, 2018. ^ "Brazil Ranch" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved August 12, 2016. ^ "Mill Creek Redwood Preserve Closed". Retrieved April 29, 2019. ^ Cadd, Brian Shultis, Dennis. "Route 1 - Scenic Highway". Retrieved December 6, 2017. ^ "California Highways: State Highway Types". Retrieved December 6, 2017. ^ Pavlik, Robert C. (November 1996). "Historical Overview of the Carmel to San Simeon Highway" (PDF). Historic Resource Evaluation Report on the Rock Retaining Walls, Parapets, Culvert Headwalls and Drinking Fountains along the Carmel to San Simeon Highway. California Department of Transportation. Archived (PDF) from the original on July 11, 2012. Retrieved December 17, 2011.
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