There’s a lot of great bridges in the United States… From the stunning Mackinac Bridge, Michigan connector to its upper peninsula, to the 7-Mile Bridge, Florida’s gateway to the Keys, to the ever-famous Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco. Our favorite, however, happens to be a single-span concrete bridge along California’s epic Pacific Coast Highway. It’s Bixby Bridge, and it’s downright mesmerizing.
Although a must-see for road travelers today, the Bixby Bridge has actually been a practical and essential bridge to the people of Big Sur for several decades.
You see, back around the turn of the century, living in Big Sur had some serious challenges. Most notably, the route connecting the people of Big Sur to nearby Carmel and Monterey became impassible in the winter, cutting residents off from the rest of civilization. Something better was needed.
After abandoning plans to connect Big Sur to its northern neighbors via an inland-route through the Santa Lucia Mountains, engineers made plans for Bixby Canyon Bridge. The Great Depression may have actually led to the unique beauty of the bridge we enjoy today. To keep costs low, concrete was used instead of steel, and the savings allowed for more money to be paid to workers. The end result is one of the tallest single-span concrete bridges in the entire world.
Named for President James Polk’s cousin, a New Yorker-turned-Monterey Peninsula lumber harvester named Charles Henry Bixby, Bixby Bridge opened for traffic in 1932. The timing couldn’t have been better as America’s love for the automobile was beginning to boil over.
80+ years later, Bixby Bridge has become an American icon. From car commercials to tv shows to postage stamps, the bridge has become one of the most recognizable parts of the Pacific Coast Highway.
Of course, if you’re going near the bridge, you’re going to want plenty of pictures. There’s plenty of spots for quick shots at the parking areas right at the north side of the bridge, but the more hardcore photographers may want to head up The Old Coast Road, a dirt-road slightly north of the Pacific Coast Highway, for a better vantage point.
We didn’t make it up The Old Coast Road on our last trip to Big Sur, but as you can see, there’s still plenty of great shots to be had right from the pull-off areas at the bridge.