Anyone who enjoys out of the way places with gorgeous scenery, should consider a visit to the Marble Lane Bridge in Sierra Valley. It’s a must see for avid birders, especially in the spring or summer. The steel truss bridge, built in 1908, is definitely interesting – however its location makes it truly exceptional.
From 1987 until 1997, I lived down the road from the Marble Lane Bridge. My children and I spent countless hours walking, sometimes horseback riding, down Marble Springs Road and over what many call “The Steel Bridge.” It was a favorite place for my kids to go – there was always something interesting to see. The sights and sounds while standing on the old structure can change dramatically throughout the seasons, but the view is always stunning.
During the spring, various channels that form the headwaters of the middle fork of the Feather River, flow under the deck and spread across the valley floor. In normal years, you can still see some snow covering Beckwourth Peak to the west. Scores of red-winged blackbirds fill the air with their musical calls and you often hear the haunting notes of Sandhill Cranes in neighboring fields. Numerous species of waterfowl waddle across the marshes and bob in the chilly water.
The steel bridge is a hub of activity in the summer months. Swallows return, darting in and out of the steel truss members, hunting for insects and building their nests in the nooks and crannies. Birding clubs and nature classes visit often to view the amazing variety of migratory birds. The air is alive with the cheerful melody of songbirds and the constant hum of bugs. The water meanders below, reduced to a size that is easily contained between the center pilings. In the distance, cattle dot green fields that slowly rise up to the mountains, which provide a constant backdrop of pure beauty.
In the fall, the bridge sits quiet in the Sierra Valley winds, abandoned by its fair weather inhabitants. Migrating flocks of waterfowl visit the area often and an occasional hawk perches on a fencepost. Monochromatic fields in the distance appear empty and the surrounding mountains seem to be waiting for winter. It’s a perfect time to enjoy the solitude of the big, beautiful valley.
Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles are regularly seen hunting around the bridge in the winter. Hawks are a common sight and I’ve heard that falcons are spotted occasionally. There are some waterfowl in the area and owls can be heard after dark. When there’s a full moon on a winter night, the bridge looks like the rigging of an old ship rising out of a snowy sea. Marble Lane Bridge may not be a fine specimen of engineering beauty, but it has a lot of character and the surrounding Sierra Valley makes it a very special place.
The bridge is also called Dyson Lane Bridge and is designated as Bridge No. 09C-0001 on the Caltrans website. Built in 1908, it’s listed as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The Caltrans Digital Collections page states that the bridge is “the only California example of a bridge built by the master bridge builder Canton Bridge Company.” On the top of each end of the bridge, the words, “1908 The Canton Bridge Co. Builders Canton, Ohio” are embossed in steel. Below that is a sign reading, “Historic Bridge Marble Lane Bridge – 1908.”
During the late spring and summer, the dirt road is easily traveled, although there may be washboard ruts, so take it slow. However, in a good winter, the bridge is typically inaccessible due to heavy snow. County snowplows do not clear the majority of Marble Springs Road. Also, if there has been a lot of moisture, the road can be slippery and you could get stuck. Be aware that the property surrounding the bridge is privately owned, so remember to stay on the road.