Inspiring Spaces: Roberts Ferry Bridge
By Alex Cantatore
Take a look at a map of Stanislaus County, and you’re not likely to see a place called “Roberts Ferry.”
It’s a small, unincorporated community just north of Turlock Reservoir. It’s just past Modesto Reservoir on Highway 132, a place most notable these days for a nut company and an elementary school that bear its name.
But hang a turn at that elementary school, and you’ll stumble on to one of Stanislaus County’s hidden gems: a magnificent covered bridge, one you can actually drive through.
The covered bridge replaced a steel truss bridge, built by Stanislaus County in 1916. It stood for 80 years, before the 128.6-foot-high waters – commemorated on a piling of the new bridge – washed it away.
The steel truss bridge replaced a wooden truss toll bridge, built by John Roberts in 1887. And that bridge replaced a ferry on the spot, founded in 1865 and taken over by Roberts in 1872 – hence the name Roberts Ferry. Roberts’ ferry was predated by an earlier 1850 ferry, less than a half-mile upstream.
Though the new Roberts Ferry Bridge isn’t historical, it still commemorates the region’s history. A short historical walk down each side of the bridge features a series of interpretive markers, each telling the region’s story. The whole tale is there, from the Native Americans who first called the land home, to Roberts’ heyday, to the fertile farmlands of Stanislaus County today.
It’s not just the beautiful covered bridge and the region’s history that inspire. It’s the scenic views of the Tuolumne River, its vibrant flows and the colorful water hyacinth that blooms by its shores.
So take the short drive off the beaten path, and take a look at Stanislaus County’s less well-known covered bridge. It’s a walk back through history – and a glimpse at what we can accomplish in the present.