Just downstream from the confluence of the North and Middle Forks of the American River stands the Mountain Quarries Railroad Bridge. Constructed in 1912, it was at that time the longest concrete arch railroad bridge in the world. The bridge was designed by John Buck Leonard and built by the Donaldson & Harrelson Company for the Mountain Quarries Company and the Pacific Portland Cement Company, at a cost of $300,000. It was built to haul limestone from a nearby quarry to Auburn, located 7 miles away. The bridge was in use daily until the Mountain Quarries shut down in 1941. The following year, the railroad track along the entire line was removed for the war effort.
The bridge is also known as the “No Hands Bridge,” due possibly to the fact that up until 1986 it had no hand rails. Another possibility is the story that in the early years of the Tevis Cup Trail Ride, Ina Robinson would drop her reins and go across the bridge “No-Hands.” Whichever version might be true, the Mountain Quarries Railroad Bridge is an amazing remnant of a bygone era and well worth a visit. It’s just a short walk from where Hwy 49 crosses the river and the walk will take you along part of the Western States Trail, which stretches from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Sacramento, California.
The 'No Hands Bridge' was completed on March 23, 1912. Since that time is has withstood the floods of the American River, managed to stay on its footing when the Hell Hole Dam failed in 1964 and even survived the "Valentine's Day Flood" of 1986, which submerged the bridge before destroying a 250 foot earth filled coffer dam two miles downstream. The old cement bridge stands today as a proud monument to an early day engineering feat and the workers who built it.