Few people admire Balboa Park’s historic Cabrillo Bridge from below–unless it’s a brief glimpse as they drive into or out of downtown San Diego along State Route 163.
Today I followed a dirt trail from Balboa Park’s West Mesa down to the base of the Cabrillo Bridge. I started at Nate’s Point Dog Park, descended quickly and soon found myself walking under the 40 feet wide, 120 feet high, 1,505 feet long marvel of engineering. (The dramatic main span is 450 feet.)
The very beautiful Cabrillo Bridge, which crosses Cabrillo Canyon, was finished in 1914 in time for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The multiple-arched cantilever structure was the first bridge of its kind in California. According to Wikipedia: “An initial design for the bridge was developed by Bertram Goodhue that featured three large arches. The design was to be similar to Toledo, Spain’s Alcántara Bridge. However, Frank P. Allen, Jr. convinced Balboa Park commissioners to choose a cheaper design by Thomas B. Hunter of San Francisco that looked similar to other bridges in Mexico and Spain.”
The Cabrillo Bridge with its seven arches is made of reinforced concrete. 7,700 cubic yards of it! Inside the bridge there is 4,050 tons of steel. You might notice how the bridge’s graceful design resembles a Roman aqueduct. It has a simple, classic appearance that is both iconic and pleasing to the eye.
In 1975 the Cabrillo Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places, and in 1986 it was designated a San Diego Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
In a couple of my early photos, which I took periodically as I walked down the trail, you can see Balboa Park’s distinctive California Tower rising just beyond the east end of the bridge.
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