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Early Travelers Confront High-Water Isolation


Early-day travelers faced not only roads destroyed by high water, snow and ice, but also bridge collapses or closings that isolated and disconnected communities.

Crossing rain-swollen creeks was tricky. Travelers preferred fording streams, but that could only be done when the water level permitted it.  Stage drivers calculated depths by placing measuring sticks at the edge of a stream to see whether the water was rising or falling.  They avoided rising water by waiting or by finding another place to cross.  The Emigrant and Lockhart ferries over the Pit and Falls rivers were useful, but seasonal. 

In late spring, after the last snow had melted and roads dried out, work began on filling potholes, removing debris and leveling the roadway.

The Weekly Shasta Courier of Jan. 26, 1878, reported that the rising river was preventing access to the town of Shasta, Calif.  Proponents advocated stringing a suspension bridge at Waugh’s Ferry that would allow crossing from the east side of the river even when water was too high for the ferry to operate.

Source: Colby, W. H. A Century of Transportation n Shasta County 1821-1920: Association for Northern California Records and Research, 1982. 22-27. Print.         

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.