August 18, 1953

Old Red Bridge Demolished

One of the bridge spans in the process of being dismantled.

On August 23, 1953, workers completed dismantling the bridge which spanned the Santa Ynez River at Alisal Road. Affectionately known as the "Old Red Bridge,” it had been in a perpetual state of disrepair for many years before being demolished. It took a week to pull timbers and the seven steel spans apart piece-by-piece. The county sold the timbers to ranchers and much of the steel was recycled locally. It is likely that remnants of the bridge were used in many projects built in the 1950s and 1960s.

The "Old Red Bridge" at flood. When the river raged, no one could get to or from the south coast. Mission Santa Ines is at top left.

Built in 1880, the bridge was for years the only means of crossing the Santa Ynez River during the winter months. When Solvang was founded, Buellton didn’t exist and Gaviota Road (present day Alisal Road to the top of Nojoqui grade) was the main connection for those traveling to and from the south coast. It was a narrow and twisting road with its terminus point in Solvang at Lompoc Road (present day Mission Drive).

Solvang founder J.M. Gregersen (kneeling on left) and friends on the bridge.

As the area grew, a wider and more modern thoroughfare than was needed. A concrete bridge was built over the river in Buellton and the San Lucas Bridge was constructed on Hwy 154. These bridges, along with improvements to Highway 101 in the 1930s, significantly changed the nature of Solvang by moving traffic away from downtown.

Constructed in 1971 after the epic 1969 floods, the Alisal Bridge spans 850 feet. 

The waterhole under the bridge offers fun and respite from summer heat.

All that remains of the Old Red Bridge are some concrete piers which will see water flow in the coming weeks as a scheduled release from Bradbury Dam is planned to begin on August 31st. The release is part of an agreement between Cachuma Lake water users to recharge the groundwater basins along the Santa Ynez River downstream of the Dam. These groundwater basins provide an essential source of water for the cities, towns and farming interests along the river and on the Lompoc Plain – and provide a natural playground for the community.

So what made the old bridge red? It's not clear if it was red paint or rust, or a combination of the two. Please let us know if you know!

Stay safe and have fun!

Your friends at Elverhøj

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Solvang, CA 93463


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