June 14, 2013
Over the South Fork of the Merced River in Wawona is a covered bridge. There are only a dozen covered bridges here in California, which is reason enough that this bridge is special. But Wawona's covered bridge is special for a whole host of other reasons, especially for the story it tells of Wawona's past, and the people who called this place home.
In its earliest form, this bridge was uncovered and unremarkable, except that it was built by Galen Clark. Clark was one of the driving forces behind the Yosemite Grant of 1864, which set aside the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias and Yosemite Valley for special protection and preservation. Clark built the bridge in 1857, shortly after moving to Wawona.
The bridge was not covered until 1879, thanks to the efforts of the owners of the brand new Wawona Hotel, a trio of brothers from Vermont. By all accounts the Washburn brothers were charming, successful, and extremely business-savvy. But they were also a long way from home, and probably a little bit homesick. According to one of their granddaughters, the brothers added walls and a steeply-pitched roof to the bridge to remind them of their home in New England, where covered bridges are a common sight.
As you cross the covered bridge today, think about the many early visitors who went over the bridge over a century ago, on their long journey to Yosemite Valley.