Yosemite National Park is known primarily for its stunning vistas, but it’s also known for 8 manmade bridges; most of which span the Merced River. The oldest is Yosemite Creek Bridge, which was built in 1922, and sits below Yosemite Falls. All 8 of them were placed on National Trust for Historic Preservation in 1977, but that apparently hasn’t guaranteed them full protection. Three of them, in particular, face demolition: the Stoneman, the Sugar Pine and the Ahwahnee. Environmentalists want them removed to help the flow of the Merced, while historians claim the bridges are examples of early rustic architecture and therefore, are too culturally important to destroy.
Despite the park’s 1,200 square miles of wilderness, 95% of the 4 million annual visitors stay in the one-by-eight-mile valley, where the Half Dome and El Capitan walls of granite, stands of pines and stair-step waterfalls are the main attractions. Now these 3 bridges have become a focal point. What happens to them is anyone’s guess, but the matter is sure to be contentious.
“The bridges have become a proxy war for those who want to keep the same level of visitor amenities and those who want to see reduced infrastructure,” says Anthony Veerkamp of the NTHP. “They are treating them more as infrastructure rather than historic resources that need to be planned for their own remarkable value.”