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Crossing the San Lorenzo River, north of Santa Cruz, means passing over one of the last covered bridges left in the U.S.—the Felton Covered Bridge, also believed to be the tallest one of its kind in America. There’s a story looming under this structure, and Culture Trip’s uncovered it.
The Felton Covered Bridge measures 80 feet (24.3 meters) long and stands 35 feet (10.6 meters) tall. And this wooden bridge’s distinctive mazework construction makes it stand out in more ways than one. The bridge, built in 1892, originally served as Felton’s main entry access point. After holding that role for over 45 years, the Felton Covered Bridge was put out of commission but left open for pedestrian use.
Since its closing in 1937, the bridge’s popularity as a frequented walking trail inspired the town to build a park around it. The Felton Covered Bridge Park gives locals and visitors an open space to enjoy picnics and sports; it also has a playground. From the park, walkers have easy access to the bridge. By strolling through the wooden tunnel, it’s easy to get up close and personal to the intricate framework of the bridge’s design, better able to see what’s holding the structure together. It’s a prime example of turn-of-the-century civil engineering, reflected in the overhead crisscrossing Pratt-Warren truss design.
For a few decades, the bridge stood in Felton while slowly decaying and taking a beating by nature. In 1973, the National Register of Historic Places added the structure to their list. The national protection came less than a decade before a series of destructive storms tore through the Santa Cruz Mountains. The 1982 rainstorms severely damaged the Felton Covered Bridge—damage it withheld for five years, until a major restoration in 1987.
With such a long history, it’s not surprising that the site is also home to some supernatural stories. Along with being a historical and architectural landmark, some people think that spirits haunt the Felton Covered Bridge. Santa Cruz paranormal writer and ghost hunter Aubrey Graves—who built a reputation for herself with her supernatural know-how and by writing books that tell of local and California hauntings—believes the ghost of a woman accused of being a witch and killed on the Felton Covered Bridge remains at the site.
This over 100-year-old structure has a story as tall as the bridge itself. The Felton Covered Bridge remains to be a protected piece of Northern California’s past—a time when the bridge provided the only way into what is now a thriving town with roads and freeways.