Albion River, Mendocino Coast

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The Albion River is 18 miles (29 km) long and drains a watershed of about 43 square miles (110 sq km) on the Mendocino Coast and empties into the Pacific Ocean near the town of Albion, California. The river starts only 15 miles (24 km) from the coast, at an elevation of about 1,570 feet (480 m). There is a large estuary at the mouth of the river that is tidal for 5 miles (8 km) upstream. The northern California coast was given the name New Albion in 1579 by Sir Francis Drake. Albion was an ancient name for Britain, from the Latin word “albus”, meaning white, a reference to the White Cliffs of Dover.

A sawmill was built near the mouth of the river in 1853. The mill was converted to steam power in 1856 and burned in 1867. The mill was rebuilt and the Albion River Railroad was constructed in 1885 to bring logs downstream to the sawmill. The rough lumber was shipped to San Francisco where the Albion Lumber Company had a planing mill and lumber drying facilities. By 1895, a company town and wharf were located near the mouth of the river. The last log went through the Albion sawmill on 19 May 1928, the railroad ceased operation on 16 January 1930, and the railroad was dismantled for scrap in 1937. Today, logging of the watershed continues and is the cause of river sedimentation. Over half of the land in the watershed is owned by Mendocino Redwood Company, and most of the land is third and fourth-growth forest. The river has no dams or reservoirs and provides recreation, groundwater recharge and industrial water supply for the community of Albion, as well as wildlife habitat including cold freshwater for fish migration and spawning.

The community of Albion lies directly on California State Route 1 that crosses the river on the only remaining wooden bridge on the coastal route. The Albion River has been crossed by a bridge since 1861, however, until the present bridge was built in 1944, the crossing was low, and could be reached only by treacherous grades up and down the bluffs on either side of the river. The current bridge was built of salvaged wood because of World War II shortages of concrete and steel. It includes a steel center truss that was also salvaged, possibly from an older bridge in Oregon, supported by concrete towers. It is 970 feet (300 m) long and its deck is 26 feet (7.9 m) wide. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in July 2017. Read more here and here. Explore more of Albion here:


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