If you’ve ever driven through the Auburn State Recreation Area, which is really all you can do because there’s never anywhere to park, you’ve probably noticed a super scary and almost precarious-looking bridge looming over the landscape. That’s Foresthill Bridge, and it’s the tallest structure of its kind in the state of California, much taller, even, than the Golden Gate Bridge. In fact, at a puny 220 feet compared to Foresthill’s 730 feet, the Golden Gate’s deck is more than three times closer to the water than Foresthill’s deck is. Also, Vin Diesel once drove a Corvette over the edge of Foresthill Bridge. Has Vin Diesel ever driven a Corvette over the edge of the Golden Gate? I didn’t think so.
Anyway, I dragged some seriously reluctant kids to this bridge on Sunday and we walked over it. When we were about a third of the way across, I made some dumb joke about how the bridge was on its last legs and due to fall down at any moment, which did not go over super well with my kids. No sense of humor, any of them.
It does give you a serious sense of vertigo to look down at the American River from way up there. I’ve been in light aircraft that fly closer to the ground than that.
Foresthill Bridge was built in the early 1970s in anticipation of the reservoir that was supposed to flood the area after the Auburn Dam was completed. If you’ve never heard of the Auburn Dam that’s because it doesn’t exist. Construction was halted back in the 1980s because of public opposition and the fact that it would have cost like a billion dollars to finish ($10 billion if you use an estimate from a short-lived plan to revive the project in 2007).
Crossing this bridge is a pretty somber experience because as you make your way down the pedestrian walkway you start to notice that people have zip-tied motivational notes to the guard rails. The notes say things like “You are loved” and “You have a purpose,” and I’m sure you’re starting to get an inkling about why these notes are there. Since it opened in 1973, 94 people have jumped to their deaths from Foresthill Bridge. The most recent suicide happened in March of this year.
If you’re in the neighborhood and you decide to visit Foresthill Bridge, though, don’t be concerned about your own safety or the safety of any reluctant kid you drag along with you. The guardrails are closely spaced and tall, too tall to climb without a ladder. You can safely walk across this bridge and enjoy the terrifying view. And I promise it won’t fall down.
If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).