This weekend Hayden and I went to Knights Ferry Covered Bridge. Knights Ferry is located just off Highway 120 about 12 miles east of Oakdale, California. We had planned to attend a Civil War reenactment that I thought was scheduled for this weekend (Much to my chagrin the reenactment was the next weekend on March 23-24, 2013).
Our first stop was the Visitor’s Center. If you visit Knights Ferry when the Visitors Center is open, be sure to stop in. The docents were a great source of information and provided us with a map of the river parks and a history of the bridge and the mill. A useful guide that is available (for free) in the Visitors Center was a self guided walking tour. This guide is also available online here. The Visitors Center has some wildlife and hydrology/ecology displays.
Hiking along the river can be fun and dangerous. There are trails along the river on both sides. Be careful when climbing on the rocks, one slip could be your last. We followed the trail upstream for awhile until we found a nice place to wet our feet. We saw several great places to swim and we plan to return later in the summer to explore some of these swimming holes along the river. Unfortunately, no camping is permitted.
The park has flush restrooms and good parking. It appeared to be a good place to start a rafting of kayak adventure as well. There are many picnic areas along both sides of the river.
The bridge, originally built in 1863, is one of 12 still existing in California and is the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi. As Knights Ferry was the county capital for a number of years, it was a lucrative business. As the gold rush grew, so did the community of Knights Ferry. A lumber mill, flour mill and later a power plant was located near the bridge.
As the Gold Rush waned, commerce and the population moved away from Knights Ferry toward Modesto and Stockton. In 1884 the county bought the bridge from the current owners. In 1985 the Corps. of Engineers received title to the bridge and continue to maintain it as part on nine recreational areas they maintain along the Stanislaus River.