San Rafael Bridge

Round Trip Distance: 0.4 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Elevation: 5087 - 5093 feet
Cellphone: 0-1 bars
Time: 20 mins.
Trailhead: MM 19.4 Buckhorn Draw Rd.
Fee: none
Attractions: Historic suspension bridge

View San Rafael River Bridge in a larger map

The San Rafael Bridge is located at the junction of Cottonwood Canyon and Buckhorn Draw west of Green River, Utah. The San Rafael River is a tributary of the Green River and has its beginnings 90 miles to the west at the confluence of Cottonwood, Huntington, and Ferron creeks. The bridge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp and was dedicated in 1933. It stands today as a monument of engineering in a time when men were able to work for the money they received from the public coffers and take pride in their accomplishments. People still enjoy the fruits of the labors of the CCC that were performed in most every National Park, Monument and Forest around the country.

To get to the San Rafael Bridge from Interstate 70 take exit 131, turn north, and follow the Buckhorn Draw Road for 19.4 miles. Some maps label the road as the Cottonwood Canyon Road between the Interstate and the San Rafael River and Buckhorn Draw once you cross the river. Exit 131 is about 29 miles west of Green River, Utah.

The San Rafael Bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A kiosk and several plaques tell its story as well as a lesson in the local geology.

The main section of the bridge, called the deck, is independent of the pillars that hold up the suspension cables. A metal plate provides for a smooth transition from the buttress to the deck of the bridge.

The deck is hung by vertical suspenders that connect beams beneath the deck to the suspension cables. The bridge is now closed to all but foot traffic.

We also hiked a trail that runs upstream along the north bank of the river for about a half mile before turning around. For all we know the trail along the river may have been used for thousands of years by the areas inhabitants.

The two San Rafael campgrounds are on the east side of the road. One campground is on the south side of the river and it has primitive campsites with no tables or fire pits. This picture is of one of the more accommodating sites on the north side of the river. Both campgrounds have a vault toilet type of restroom.

The San Rafael Bridge is a smaller version of the Dewey Bridge that crosses the Colorado River northeast of Moab on Highway 128.  The Dewey Bridge was built around 1916 and destroyed by a child playing with matches in 2008. Although crossing the Dewey Bridge was always memorable I always regretted not having any good pictures of it so when I saw the San Rafael Bridge I decided to make up for it. If you would like to see it for yourself then all you have to do is 'Take a hike'.