Night Light of the North Coast: Bridges of Humboldt County — Cock Robin Island Bridge

Illuminated by a waxing crescent moon, Cock Robin Island Bridge crosses the Eel River beneath the glorious night sky. The lights of Ferndale glow as a pot of gold at the end of the Milky Way’s arch, where the core of our galaxy rises above the horizon. The planet Jupiter is the brightest point in the sky, while its sister planet Saturn is the lesser point to Jupiter’s lower left. Cock Robin Island Road, Ferndale, Humboldt County, California. June 26, 2020.

Between Loleta and Ferndale in Humboldt County, and a little to the west, the Eel River broadens and wraps itself around Cock Robin Island before depositing its fresh water into the Pacific Ocean. The island itself contains private property, but connecting it to the mainland on the north side is one of Humboldt’s unique bridges, the publicly accessible Cock Robin Island Bridge.

Cock Robin Island Bridge’s single, narrow lane offers little room to maneuver; it is barely wide enough to accommodate both a car and a pedestrian or bicyclist simultaneously, and feels very close to the river surface — which is particularly broad here — making the journey feel longer than its approximately 750-foot span (as measured on Google Earth). It was a slow drive across at night to take a photograph, with thoughts of the black depths to either side swimming in my mind. I don’t know how deep it really is, but it seemed deep enough. The bridge is both narrower and longer at night.

The Pedrazzini Boat Ramp on the north side of the bridge offers public access to the lower Eel River, with a wide turn-out for vehicles. Though the boat launch was built in the early 2000’s, I’ve found stories of folks fishing off of Cock Robin Island Bridge as far back as 1935 here: http://www.krisweb.com/krishumboldtbay/krisdb/html/krisweb/humbay_historic/eelfish4.htm . I would love to know when the bridge itself was built, but I haven’t come across that information yet.

A view across Cock Robin Island Bridge from Cock Robin Island. It was an overcast and misty night on the lower Eel River, though the weather report had called for 50% sky cover (my brother Seth and I never found the sky’s clear half). Downstream is to the left. Humboldt County, California, on June 25, 2020, at 11:08 p.m.

To read previous entries of “Night Light of the North Coast,” click on my name above the article. To keep abreast of my most current photography or purchase a print, visit and contact me at my website mindscapefx.com , or follow me on Instagram at @david_wilson_mfx and on Twitter @davidwilson_mfx.

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22 comments

  • 🕯🌳The top was a great picture,it was like two bridges meeting on a cosmic plane. Good 👁.👍🏽🌬

  • The bridge was built in 1960. Before that there was a summer bridge to the north, but in the winter access was by boat only. And year-round the dairymen would boat their milk south to the Ferndale side to the old Valley Flower Creamery.

    I worked with the wife of the engineer who designed the bridge and oversaw its construction. She said it was his first big project and he hoped that–with a million dollar price tag– it would hold up, given the history of the river. And of course it did: only four years later it came through the ’64 flood undamaged.

    The bridge is inspected by divers every few years, and they say that the river is at least 20 feet deep under the north end.

    • Thanks, Guest, for your first-hand account of some of the history of the bridge. In that link I provided in the article, there are stories of folks fishing from a “Cock Robin Island Bridge” back in 1935. I wonder if that was just the summer bridge you mention.

      I had no idea it was that deep! Feels like driving across the bay.

      Here is a panorama from 2018 I took from beside my truck in the middle of the bridge while scouting it for a photo opportunity. The 180º field of view from left to right gives it the warped appearance:

  • It is a cool bridge, and those are interesting pics.

    Still… I often wonder how a property owner can command such a disproportionate share of tax revenue… this bridge is, essentially, one man’s county funded driveway. And a damn expensive one, at that!

    I ride across it often, just to get my money’s worth!

    • Yes, you are right about the price tag. The locals at that time thought it was a waste of money for just a few families. But back then (even as now) dairy was an important part of the local economy. And currently–as in today, now–the bridge provides public access to many acres of native estuary land which is open to everyone.

      The island once had 13 dairies on it back in the day when cows were milked by hand. I’m not sure how many of them were still there in 1960, but I know there were still two in 1976, which would be 16 years after the bridge was built. One of the two dairies was sold to California Fish and Wildlife when the dairyman died in 1993. The other land is still in the private hands of the original dairy family and is used only for the growing of organic hay; and it is managed by very environmentally conscious dairymen.

      • Thank you for your correct accounting of the dairy land of today. We are proud to have owned our dairy since 1859 and still have the Original Land Grant in our safety deposit box! This ranch has been handed down generation to generation. My nephew is currently growing alfalfa hay and the home has been lived in by the same tenants for approximately 40 years. They are considered family. Farming equipment goes over the bridge far more than one would guess! Before the bridge one could only drive across at a very low tide. There were summer bridges which people fished of and many stories about fishermen and motorists. Ferndale Museum has many photos of milk cans being floated across to the creamery and photos of the different dairies of the past.

    • Cool pic! Ride on!!!

  • The road used to go all the way to ferndale. There was another bridge on the camp weott side

  • Anyone ever see the Quarters in the cement on the bridges?
    There is one quarter on each bridge he built

  • Oh BoBo are ya gonna make us search the whole bridge ? Are they on the hand railings or in the road bed ?

  • 🎵🎚CANNIBAL🎛ISLAND🎙STUDIOS🎧🎶

  • This bridge saved an entire herd of dairy cows in the 1964 flood.

    Beautiful photos, by the way…

  • Scott Thorwaldson

    Did that road used to go all the way to Ferndale?

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