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In Chico, the middle of May feels like summer. It is at least 100 degrees outside and there isn’t much wind. I needed to find water before I melted.
My fiancé, Richard, and I opted for the 10-minute drive to the Honey Run Covered Bridge, which crosses Butte Creek.
About a half mile before the bridge we began noticing parked cars along the side of the narrow road. We weren’t the only ones looking for refuge from the heat. The small parking lot was packed (there’s a $3 parking fee, in case you plan to go). We grabbed our towels, lunch and water bottles, and found the picnic tables.
The area between the parking lot and the creek is shaded and features eight picnic tables as well as a couple of barbecue grills and a public restroom.
After we downed our lunch, we walked a few yards over to the bridge.
A wooden display case in front of the Honey Run Covered Bridge offers tidbits about its history and the local flora and fauna.
Richard and I walked along the bridge and looked out its small rectangular windows to see the creek below. I photographed the interior of the covered bridge while admiring its auburn color.
When we reached the gate at the far side, we peered at the dirt road beyond it. I remember peeking through the bars of the same gate when my parents took me there as a child. At that time, I hadn’t understood the purpose of a bridge with a locked gate, and I had wanted to cross the bridge.
Now I view the Honey Run Covered Bridge as a piece of local history that is preserved for its age, design and beauty.
And that’s what was happening on that hot May afternoon.
Below the bridge, young men swam in the creek and sat on large rocks on the opposite bank.
Richard and I set off to explore. We followed a narrow footpath along the creek. There we found people crammed on the beach, soaking up the sun and getting their feet wet. A skimpily-clad sunbather stretched on a rock while people lounging in inflated rubber tubes floated past her and down the creek.
Further down the beach someone’s stereo blared hip-hop music, giving the creek an urban jungle vibe. I shook my head in dismay at the artificial noise and walked away from the crowd which had set up canopies, folding chairs and ice chests on the beach. I preferred the natural setting with the historic bridge as the only reminder of civilization. Fortunately, the creek is long and windy enough to offer each explorer a secluded place to enjoy.
Richard and I waded into the creek. The snow-melt water felt like ice. My body couldn’t bear the stark contrast to the heat. I was back on the shore in minutes. Richard continued wading through the creek and found a walking stick or, as he liked to say, a druid staff.
Soon after, an older man and his two young granddaughters walked down the bank toward the water. The girls walked into the freezing creek as if it was bathwater. “Is it cold, girls?” their grandfather asked. They both nodded, but didn’t make for the shore. They were braver than I was.
A Piece of History
The discovery of gold in Butte County led to the need for first Honey Run Road and then the Honey Run Covered Bridge. Construction of the bridge was completed in 1887, and the cover was presumably added after 1901, according to the nearby Colman Museum.
In 1965, a truck crashed into a corner of the bridge, collapsing the eastern span. Soon after, a new steel-and-concrete bridge was built further upstream and a locked gate closed the Honey Run Covered Bridge to vehicles.
A few years later, the non-profit Honey Run Covered Bridge Association formed, and the public donated funds to reconstruct the historic bridge. It is the only three-level covered bridge in the nation, according to the Colman Museum.
Breakfast on the Bridge
Folks will show their appreciation for the historic bridge in June when the Honey Run Covered Bridge Association puts on its annual pancake breakfast. The proceeds help preserve the bridge. This year’s fundraiser, which features live music, starts at 7 a.m. on June 7 — this Sunday. Breakfast ends at 11 a.m. The cost is $7.50 for adults and $5 for children.
After breakfast, many will take the 10-minute drive from the bridge up Centerville Road to the Colman Museum, which will be holding its annual 49er Day Faire. The museum features an exhibit on the bridges in Butte Creek Canyon, as well as antique tools, books, clothes, maps and other bits of local history. The one-room Centerville Schoolhouse next door is also worth checking out. Don’t forget to ring the old schoolhouse bell.
The bridge is on Honey Run Road, which is off the Skyway, between Chico and Paradise. It’s just before the intersection with Centerville Road. The bridge is open to the public daily from 9 a.m. to sunset. Visit colmanmuseum.com for information. Click here to see a photo gallery of the Honey Run Covered Bridge and the Colman Museum.
Journalist Lauren Brooks lives in Chico. She is the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record’s weekly entertainment guide, The Buzz. She is a CSU, Chico alumna who graduated with a B.A. in journalism in spring 2006. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.