Golden Shores, just about five miles to the south, is the end of
ribbon of the Mother Road at
Topock, through which Route 66 travels. Sitting at an elevation of
505 feet right at the eastern edge of the Colorado River, the settlement
got its start when the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad built a wooden bridge
across the river in 1883. Comprised of a railroad station and steamboat
landing, it was first called Mellen for for Captain John Alexander "Jack"
Mellon, who was a Colorado River steamboat captain owner of the Colorado
Steam Navigation Company, though it was misspelled as "Mellen."
Just a few years later, in
1890, the wood railroad bridge was replaced by the Red Rock Bridge, at a
cost of almost a half million dollars. This bridge, built by the Atchison,
Topeka & Santa Fe Railway was a cantilevered truss bridge. At about this
time, the settlement's name was changed to Topock, a term thought to have
from the Mohave Indian word for “water crossing” or “bridge.”
this time, road travelers crossed the river on the Needles Ferry. However,
in 1914, when a flood took the ferry out of commission, planks were put on
the Red Rock Bridge, so that automobiles and wagons could cross the bridge
between trains. Just two years later,
the Trails Arch Bridge was completed in February, 1916, to accommodate
road travelers. Though it was substantial improvement over sharing a bridge with a
train, the arch bridge could only accommodate one way traffic.
At the time of its construction, it was the longest arched bridge in
The one-way traffic wasn't
a huge problem, as there really wasn't that much automobile
traffic. That would change; however, when Route 66
barreled through, and even more so during World War II. The
Trails Arch Bridge had a weight
limitation problem of 11 tons, which created a problem for truck traffic.
Soon, engineers began to
look for a new way for Route 66
travelers to cross the Colorado River. When the Santa Fe Railroad opened a new bridge for their
trains in 1945, the rails were removed from the old Red Rock Bridge,
reinforcements were made, and the bridge was opened for automobile traffic in
In 1966, when I-40 barreled through, replacing the Mother Road,
a new four lane steel girder bridge was built and the old Red Rock Bridge
was abandoned. After 22 years of sitting rusting in the sun, the Red Rock
Bridge was finally dismantled in 1988.
And what of the Trails
Arch Bridge that was abandoned in 1947? It’s still there -- its
gleaming white girders now supporting gas and utility lines across the
The Old Trails Arch Bridge was featured in the film The Grapes of
Wrath. Sometimes also referred to as the Topock Bridge or the Needles
Bridge, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.