Soquel Avenue Bridge and Flooding on the San Lorenzo River

Soquel Avenue Bridge. Photo © Coastal Watershed Council.

Soquel Avenue Bridge. Photo © Coastal Watershed Council.

There have been several bridges at the site of the present-day Soquel Bridge. This location has served as an essential crossing point throughout the river’s history. In 1874 a covered bridge at this location was one of three main crossings on the San Lorenzo River. When constructed the bridge was 800 feet long, and cost $15,000 to build. The covered portion made it one of California’s longest covered bridges at 530 feet.

Here you can view the plaque that discusses the history and current state of the once covered bridge. Photo courtesy of and © of LocalWiki.org.LocalWiki.

Here you can view the plaque that discusses the history and current state of the once covered bridge. Photo courtesy of and © Graham Freeman.

In 1890 a trestle was added to the Soquel Bridge, to accommodate a horse car on the east side. This was later converted to a trolley line. In 1921, the bridge was replaced with a concrete and steel girder bridge. This was widened to four lanes in 1967, and a four-span concrete I-girder bridge was constructed on the north side. The bridge has been continuously widened and reconstructed throughout the years to accommodate a growing population, and to improve the overall flood capacity of the San Lorenzo River.

The Christmas Flood of 1955

“The Christmas Flood of 1955” occurred on December 22, 1955, around 10:00 pm, and pushed water further into downtown than it had ever been. Water reached a depth of 10 feet on Pacific Avenue. Chaos ensued as people scrambled onto roofs, telephone poles, and trees to wait through the night. Businesses were ruined, cattle were lost. Nine people died: two of them in their houses and the other 7 were swept out to sea. Personal accounts of Santa Cruz residents who remember this flood event can be found here.

In the flood of 1955, the river expanded into the downtown area, covering much of the urban area. Pacific Avenue was under 10ft of water in some locations. Photo courtesy of Santa Cruz Public Library.

In the flood of 1955, the river covered much of downtown. Photo courtesy of and © Santa Cruz Public Library.

To reclaim “wrecked areas”, several streets like Garfield and Eagle Streets were removed. San Lorenzo Park, Front Street shopping center and banks near the Veteran’s Memorial building were built.

Read the rest of the story and learn about the flood of 1982 here at MobileRanger.com.

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Julia Gaudinski


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