Sundial Bridge – Redding, California - Atlas Obscura

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Sundial Bridge

Redding, California

This ultra-modern California span is actually a titanic solar clock in disguise built by famed architect Santiago Calatrava. 


Checking your phone while riding your bike or even while walking can be hazardous but trying to read the time off Redding, California’s dual-purpose Sundial Bridge is probably even more dangerous since you’ll have to train your eyes much farther from the road. 

After commissioning famed architect Santiago Calatrava to design the Sundial Bridge in 1997, with the support ofThe McConnell Foundation, the city of Redding opened the bridge in 2004. It is a bicycle and pedestrian bridge that was built as both a useful span and a tourist draw. The bridge connects two separate parts of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park [and the greater network of the Sacramento River trail system] which is home to a number of delicate wildlife, and the bridge itself was built with the area’s creatures in mind as well. In order to protect a salmon habitat on one side of the bridge, a tall support spire was designed to hold up the 700-foot-long bridge from the opposite end only without placing columns in the water. Thus the slanted claw, from which the suspension cables hang, tilts over the path as part of a futuristic bit of public architecture. It also is translucent, so as not to cast a shadow on the spawning pond below.

The bridge’s tower also does double-duty as the dial of a giant sundial. As the sun traces its arc across the sky, the shadow that it casts lines up with large stone markers that have been placed in a garden to the north of the bridge. Despite being kept by the rotation of celestial bodies, the time told by the bridge is only truly accurate during the Summer solstice when the sun lines up directly. On May 20, 2012, the bridge was in the central path of the annular solar eclipse that day.

Even if you can’t set your watch by it, the Sundial Bridge is one of those spans that is both part of the journey and a destination in and of itself.  It’s also a wonderful place in which to enjoy both sunset, while on the bridge, and sunrise because of the river and the bridge’s position relative to the nearby mountains.

Know Before You Go

Take the Auditorium Drive exit off CA-44, 1.5 miles west of I-5. Parking is available onsite in Turtle Bay Exploration Park and from there walk onto the Sundial Bridge.

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