Historic Bridges

Twenty-seven bridges currently span the LA River, from its origin in San Fernando Valley to its terminus in Long Beach. These structures constitute one of the largest concentrations of National Register-eligible bridges in the nation. In 2007, the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission declared thirteen of them, which were built between 1900 and 1938, as cultural monuments.

As soon as wagons rolled into the dusty pueblo of Los Angeles, the need for bridges to traverse the LA River arose.  The early wooden bridges were replaced in the late 1800’s by metal truss bridges, as this 1894 aerial illustration shows.

Floods and corrosion eventually destroyed all of these iron beauties. Between 1909 and 1944, the iron bridges were replaced by the reinforced concrete spans  we see today.

Most were constructed by the City of Los Angeles’ Bureau of Engineering, under the supervision of (and often designed by) Merrill Butler. A high school graduate who studied engineering through the mail via a correspondence course, Butler served as the city’s engineer of bridges and structures from 1923-1963.   

The historic bridges under his watch, mammoth in scale and ornamental in design, echo the City Beautiful Movement of the time. An early form of urban planning, the movement’s founders believed that a beautiful environment makes the people who live there into better human beings. As a result, it promoted classical architecture to help improve the character, morale, and civic virtues of residents.

Several of the bridges are actually viaducts, structures with multiple spans, often connected by a tower.

The Los Angeles Conservancy has put together a good pamphlet with the history and more details of these graceful River bridges.


Riverside-Zoo Drive Bridge (1938)



Glendale-Hyperion Viaduct (1929)


Fletcher Ave Bridge (1927)



Riverside-Figueroa St. Bridge (1927/1939)


North Broadway-Buena Vista Bridge (1911)


North Spring Street Viaduct (1928)


North Main Street Bridge


César Chávez/Macy St. Bridge



First Street Viaduct (1929)


Fourth Street Viaduct (1931)



Sixth Street Viaduct(1932)



The final and most grand of the monumental river bridges, with graceful steel arches and a Classical Moderne design. According to a report released by the Bureau of Engineering, this bridge has been substantially weakened from a chemical process known as alkali-silica reaction (ASR), which BOE engineers said will require a rebuilding of the bridge. There is a current debate about what the replacement bridge should look like.


Seventh Street Viaduct



Olympic Blvd Viaduct (1925)

Washington Blvd Bridge (1931)


View Sightseeing - Historic Bridges in a larger map