Douglas Memorial Bridge Memorial
The Great Christmas Flood of 1964 was a doozy, if judged by the number of Redwood Highway tourist attractions still proudly displaying high water marks on surviving structures and trees. A series of storms battered the Pacific Coast and hit northern California starting Dec. 21, 1964. The torrent dumped 24 inches of warm rain on recently accumulated mountain snow pack, causing the Eel and Klamath Rivers to rise precipitously.
The deluge destroyed 98% of the riverbank town of Klamath. The Douglas Memorial Bridge, a 1926 arch bridge along US Highway 101, was in the path of the rising Klamath River. Debris piling against its otherwise sturdy supports helped smash it.
The town of Klamath was eventually rebuilt -- on higher ground -- and US Hwy 101 was rerouted to a spot with a higher span and better tolerance for biblical-scale calamity. The modern bridge features four California bear statues, similar to the ones that bracketed the destroyed bridge, and most drivers whizz across (no doubt thinking about beating the crowds to a drive thru tree).
More leisurely travelers can pay their respects at remains of the old Douglas Bridge. The western stub was preserved, with its pair of concrete 8-ton California bear statues, as a memorial to the "The Thousand Year Flood." Kayakers paddle placidly below signs describing the disaster.