Night Light of the North Coast: Bridge Beauty

[Editor’s Note: Starting today, Redheaded Blackbelt will be publishing images from photographer David Wilson as part of a weekly photo series, Night Lights of the North Coast. Please keep in mind that Wilson’s photos are not always strict photo representations but can be images edited for artistic purposes. You can view more of Wilson’s work at]

The Dyerville Train Trestle crosses the Main Fork of the Eel River at the confluence with the South Fork of the Eel River beneath the Milky Way on July 6, 2018.

Built in 1910, this old railroad bridge crosses the Main Fork of the Eel River just upstream of the confluence with the South Fork Eel River. I’m not absolutely certain what to call this bridge, having heard it called variously “South Fork Bridge,” “Caine Rock Bridge” and “Dyerville Bridge.” Google Maps calls it the Dyerville Train Trestle.

It is part of the old Northwestern Pacific Railroad that used to run through Humboldt County until about the end of the 1990’s. One can see this bridge from a broad overlook, complete with information signs, on the Avenue of the Giants just to the north of the Honeydew exit off Highway 101. From that view, look south up the left-hand Main Fork Eel River to see the bridge. The South Fork Eel River Valley is to the right. It’s also visible from the freeway in that area.

I have heard that two of the four spans of this bridge were washed away in the 1964 flood, and I imagine that they were the two spans on the left (only one is visible here), because they are shinier and perhaps newer.

These are the same railroad tracks you see against the Bluffs across from Rio Dell, and the same tracks that run along Eureka’s waterfront, where you can still find some rusty trains at Commercial Street and Waterfront Drive. These are the same tracks that run along 101 between Eureka and Arcata, and the ones that continue out past Janes Road toward Blue Lake. It’s easy to forget that not too long ago the trains were running, and one could watch them pass and hear their whistles and rumblings daily.

The plan was to photograph the bridge with the Milky Way flying over it. I had been here the week before during daylight to scout it out.

I was out with a photo friend of mine named Kris, and he and I were experimenting with different ways to light this up. We added touches of light with our flashlights, and some light came from street lamps along Highway 101 behind us. The scene is made bright and details are exposed by a combination of our lighting and a long exposure of 30 seconds, a high light sensitivity setting (ISO) and a fairly wide aperture.

It’s often cloudy along the river late at night, though, and such proved to be the case this night. The sky grew progressively cloudier and, though we waited patiently, we were never able to get a clearer view of the Milky Way. Though the scene seems bright, to our naked eyes, we were standing in relative darkness.

Note the shooting star above the Milky Way near the middle of the image. This is a single exposure.

Camera/exposure information below:

Nikon D750

Nikon 14-24mm lens at 15mm

ISO 10000

30 Sec


Here are two other photos of the same bridge taken from different angles during daylight.

The Dyerville Train Trestle crossing the Main Fork Eel River at the confluence of the South and Main Forks.

The Dyerville Train Trestle crossing the Main Fork Eel River at the confluence of the South and Main Forks. Humboldt County, California, June 28, 2018.

Gazing through the Dyerville Train Trestle June 28, 2018.

Earlier Adventures: Tunnel Travel in Loleta



  • That is amazing

  • Outstanding public interest feature Kym, and outstanding pictures. Especially like the photographer’s explanation.

  • Great addition to your site Kym. Nice pictures and and a great read. Thanks!

  • The one looking down the tracks is amazing. It’s wonderful to get a look through new eyes when the awe of what is really magnificent has become lost through familiarity. Thank you.

  • I love this post/feature! I miss the trains. I grew up in Larabee, where the tracks ran along our place. It’s just a little hilarious that 1964 is beyond the reach of memory, which of course it will be if one is born after! Wonderful photos!

  • OMG, yay! Seeing Humboldt through an artistic photographer’s eyes, plus getting some background (I am still pretty new here)–what a special treat. Thank you, Kym and David.

  • Very beautiful.

  • Cain Rock is just upstream from AP. There is a bridge just downstream from Cain Rock but it isn’t this one.

  • Kym, did you see that ten of the latest round of abatement notices (currently posted in the Times Standard) include light pollution violations? They are the first light pollution violations I’ve seen.

  • It was great to see the pictures of the old train bridge and tracks. My dad grew up in Shively in the late 1910s and 1920s. He and his brothers would walk the train track to school. Later as a young man he worked for the train company which I think was the Northern Pacific. I wish I had recorded his stories. At my age they can kinda run together. He was 96 when he pasted and was as sharp as a tack.

  • Beyond beautiful

    Wonder if this track will be part of the new trail or if its too worn for that.
    Awesome article and new feature kym!!

    • These are the tracks that are proposed to become the trail. The right of way goes from San Francisco Bay to Humboldt Bay. I don’t know if it will ever become a trail but it would be a great walk or bike ride. A trail would make river running easier too. I think it would be expensive to open and maintain. Parts are in relatively good shape, parts are completely gone from still active slumps.

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