[Slideshow] Bridges of Yosemite Valley: A Photographer's Personal Account

Posted on: April 15th, 2013 by Guest Writer 2 Comments

North side of Sugar Pine Bridge. Half Dome is viewed through the trees at left rear.
North side of Sugar Pine Bridge. Half Dome is viewed through the trees at left rear.

Last year we added the bridges of Yosemite Valley to our 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list and our National Treasures portfolio out of concern for how the National Park Service’s plan to manage the Merced River would impact the historic Rustic-style stone bridges that span the river. Despite our ongoing advocacy efforts, earlier this year the National Park Service released a draft plan calling for the demolition of the beloved Sugar Pine Bridge and 100 other historic structures in the Yosemite Valley Historic District.

Photographer Brian Grogan generously agreed to share with us some of his gorgeous photos of Yosemite’s bridges and his thoughts about their importance to the park’s landscape. Take a minute to be dazzled by these bridges’ rustic simplicity, and then send a message to the National Park Service that urges their stewardship of these precious structures.


Brian Grogan, Photography + Preservation Associates:

In 1991 the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) program of the National Park Service performed a formal historical documentation of the historic bridges and roads of Yosemite National Park.

I was wonderfully fortunate to be hired by the National Park Service to produce the HAER documentation photography for this project. At the time I had lived in the Yosemite area for almost fifteen years and was certainly familiar with the bridges, having crossed them innumerable times as well as floated or swam under many of them.

Yet this assignment to produce the historical record photographs of these elegant structures lead me to an entirely new appreciation of the inherent beauty of the bridges, the craftsmanship of their construction, and the legacy they represent in the history of the National Parks.

The Sugar Pine Bridge in Yosemite Valley is an outstanding historic example of the rustic architectural style that has served as the defining design aesthetic for the National Park Service, both in Yosemite National Park and throughout the National Parks system.

Such considered care was given in these early days of the National Parks to gracefully incorporating these structures into the landscape that the designs for these Yosemite Valley bridges underwent a formal review and approval process under the auspices of the National Commission of Fine Arts.

Sugar Pine Bridge should be saved both for its aesthetic and historic value as well as for the means it provides for the park visitors to explore and experience the wonders of Yosemite.

Editor’s note: The formal HAER documents from Yosemite are now housed in the United States Library of Congress, including a history of these features, formal drawings of the bridges, and large format black and white photographs. All this material is available to the public and easily accessible online.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to save America's historic places. Join us today to help protect the places that matter to you.

Guest Writer

Although we're always on the lookout for blog content, we encourage readers to submit story ideas or let us know if you've seen something that might be interesting and engaging for a national audience. Email us at editorial@savingplaces.org.

National Treasures, Take Action

2 Responses

  1. Arin Streeter

    April 15, 2013

    As someone who was involved in the National Park Roads and Bridges recording project a decade ago, I’d like to note that photography and drawings are public works. Attribution is supposed to be given to their creators, but you need to be careful not to imply that there is any copyright remaining with the photographer, and you definitely shouldn’t be putting the photographer’s name on the drawing sheet.

    I have found work that I’ve done as part of the project used elsewhere with no attribution, and rationalize that that’s acceptable in that they are public records that were created for public purpose, but if you’re putting names on images, you need to put the delineator’s name on the drawing rather than the photographer.

  2. National Trust for Historic Preservation

    April 15, 2013

    Hi Arin,

    Thanks for your feedback. I will be correcting the image credits and re-uploading them within the next day.

    Thank you!

    Julia Rocchi
    Managing Editor