The Callahan Red Bridge
● By Gary VanDeWalker
All The Way HomeOctober 2015
By Gary Vandewalker
Photos: Taryn Burkleo
In 1851, Mathias Bernard Callahan's pregnant wife fell into the river at the southern end of the Scott Valley. Legend says Native Americans rescued her as she then went into premature labor and gave birth to a son. Here the family founded the town of Callahan, establishing a place for travelers and a growing Gold Rush town.
A short distance out of town stands the Callahan Red Bridge. Built in 1906, the bridge spans the Scott River and has been used by those on foot, horses and cars for its 99 years of service. Built after the Gold Rush years, the bridge has seen the rise of the ranching community and the waxing and waning of the small community of Callahan, whose population of 50 watches over the local history.
The red steelwork frame stands over wood beams. Beneath the wooden road, water rushes underneath, leaving the valley and beginning a new part of its journey. Highway 3 bypasses the bridge, which serves the local traffic taking side routes through the countryside.
The town of Callahan draws little attention. Those few who have reason to pass along Highway 3 move through a rich Gold Rush history. The Wells Fargo bank building, with its steel plate window coverings, stands empty. The Emporium welcomes those who take the time to stop for refreshment and look over the once-bustling town. The bridge leads a quiet life.
In 2013, Caltrans inspected the bridge and found the lower wooden beams of the structure rotting. Unlike similar situations over the past century when the bridge was refurbished, the Siskiyou County Roads Department closed the bridge. No plans were made to replace the
60 beams, and a piece of local history was drawing to a close. Local
community leaders rallied and formed the Save Callahan Bridge
The roads department agreed to do the repairs if the beams ($149 each) could be obtained outside the county budget. The committee set out to save the landmark. On August 2, 2014, it reached its goal and Siskiyou County workers put the wood beam spanners into place. Callahan's Red Bridge once again called travelers to her service.
The Gold Rush days long past, the Scott Valley moves at a different pace. Callahan is a place mark in the history of California. The remaining families live in the shadows of the past, while creating their futures. The Red Bridge still remains beside them, always helping them make their way home.
TAKE INTERSTATE 5 TO YREKA. TAKE SOUTH
YREKA/HIGHWAY 3 EXIT. TURN RIGHT, GET
INTO LEFT TURN LANE. HEAD SOUTH ON
HIGHWAY 3 UNTIL YOU REACH CALLAHAN
(45 MINUTES FROM YREKA).