Dr. William Knight first entered California in 1844 as a member of the John Fremont expedition. When gold was discovered in 1848, hoards of travelers would be arriving in the region in search of riches and adventures.
Knight established a ferry service to shuttle passengers and supplies across the Stanislaus River. Shortly thereafter, he was killed in a gunfight, but the success of the ferry service continued. A toll bridge was built in 1852, but was destroyed a decade later. A covered bridge was built in 1863, which still stands today. At 330 feet long, this structure is the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi River.
As a reliable place to cross the river, the community became an important center for commerce. In 1854, a flour mill was built, the remains of which are still standing adjacent to the bridge.
Visitors today can visit this sprawling historic site as part of the Knights Ferry Recreation Area, run by the Army Corps of Engineers. This park preserves the bridge and other historic buildings, as well as provides ample space to enjoy the Stanislaus River. This section of the river provides some nice swimming areas and serves as a departure point for whitewater rafting adventures.