The Cedar Mountain Bridges at the Current Location

For over 100 years several bridges have crossed the Cedar River at what is called Cedar Mountain. My research into these bridges was sparked when I found an odd thing while searching for old pilings during low water on the river.

Walking towards the bridge I found midstream some bushes growing on rocks. This island’s rocks didn’t look like your average rock. They had a cracked and almost cement look.

Could this be the foundation of the original bridge across the river? Looking at old maps I knew that bridge was located somewhere close to this odd island. It connected old roads to Newcastle and Issaquah to the town, mines and railroad depot at Cedar Mountain.

Today this is a sleepy spot on the river but over a century ago it was a busy corner of King County. Many of us call this bridge the Upper Jones Road Bridge due to it’s connection to Jones Road. That road was built originally in the 1880s to connect the first homesteads of the area. To the west there is its sister bridge or Lower Jones Road Bridge. It connected to where the dairy farm of Elliott was and more old roads headed up the bluff.

The road was named for some of the founding settlers – the Jones Family. Want to know a bit more about them check out my article – The Jones Brothers – the story behind the coal.

Both of these bridges have more than one name. In the King County Map Vault the upper was also called the Cedar Mountain Bridge. The Lower can be found named the Elliott Bridge.

Sadly, most bridges and roads are now just numbers. The lucky few use both the old name and their number. To make things more fun the numbering system has changed over the years. Not surprising, our Cedar Mountain bridges have had several numbers. Currently it is #3165 but in the past it was also #2164A and the very first ones were #160A.

According to my count there have been five bridges at this junction of roads and river. Since history is not black and white, my bridge count theory is at best dark grey. How can that be? Well some of Cedar Mountain’s history had been forgotten and those gaps are hard to close. We may never know for sure, so now it is time to document what I have gathered.

I found so much information and photos I decided to split my bridge article in half. Even I was exhausted by the time I got to writing about the 1884-85 bridges. So, we are going to start with a post on the bridges built at the current location. Then in a second article discuss the older bridges built in the original spot just a stone throw upriver and perhaps related to the odd rock island.

Here goes – Let’s see what I found on the three Cedar Mountain bridges that are in the current spot we know so well.

Current 2002 Jones Road Bridge – 5th Bridge

At the intersection of the Maple Valley Highway (WA state route #169) and 196th Avenue SE sits a modern bridge over the Cedar River. Lot has changed since the first bridge but to understand the past we must see what we have today. This first photo shows the date stamp of 2002. By the way I am addicted to looking for the year stamps on bridges as I cross them. Are you too? If not see how many you can find on your next road trip.

Check out a few views of her from the last couple of years.

Next is a good photo of the river taken from the bridge deck. This looks to the southeast towards the park and where the original bridge must have stood. The biggest Cedar Mountain Coal Mine would be across the river on the right behind the trees.

Deep in the King County Road Maintenance Vault I found the drawing of the 2002 bridge replacement. It shows us that not only was the Jones Road Bridge replaced but also they removed a decades old side trestle ramp.

The area to the south of the bridge used to be the heart of the Cedar Mountain Coal Mining operations from approximately 1884 until the mid 1940s. It was accessed starting in 1929 by a wooden ramp that came off of the bridge. To replace this dangerous ramp entrance a new route south of the bridge was designed to enter the area. It includes a small overpass crossing the Cedar River Trail which was built on the 1880s railroad right-of-way.

2002 Engineer drawing of the replacement Bridge and the new access to the historic area.

To help you visualize this new configuration, here is a photo of the overpass from the trail looking toward Renton. The highway is on the left and the park plus river on the right.

Cedar River Trail looking at the Cedar Mtn Place Overpass going down into Belmondo’s Reach Park.

As we continue back through the years and different bridges this ramp and new access will make more sense.

1950 Jones Road Bridge & ramp – 4th Bridge

This bridge not only replaced the prior bridge but also had to accommodate the trestle/ramp that connected to the old mining community. In the late 1940s and early 1950s there was still a need for access to several homes and the remains of the coal mine.

Let us start with those engineer’s drawings to help you understand this ramp thing. I found at least three pdf files from this period. They included one for the bridge replacement, one for repairing and connecting the existing trestle and a third one that straightens out the John McQuade Road on the NE side of the bridge.

The McQuade Road was built in the 1920s to replace the original road #53 that often flooded because it followed along the river’s edge. This new road connected the bridge to the Jones Road which was part of the old road #53. Today we only know this as the Jones Road.

On a side note road numbers originally were assigned in order of requests. #53 was the 53rd road given a number by King County. It is an old road for sure since I found it dated to the 1870s.

This map is from 1929 showing both the McQuade Road #2146 and the old Road #53. It also has the original bridge location that we will talk about in the next article. The original road was a bit wiggly and they fixed that messy approach when they replaced the bridge in 1950.

1929 map showing why the McQuade Road was built and connected to Jones Road and the Cedar Mtn Bridge

Next is the 1950 engineering design showing the modifications for the new bridge and the straightening of the McQuade Road.

1950 Straightening Project of the John McQuade Road

This project map shows the arrangement of the 4th and 3rd Bridge’s configuration that included a ramp. They both had the trestle that gave access to the West Coast Coal Mine operation. This was the mine that was across the Cedar River and serviced by the Pacific Coast Railroad. The railroad went under the bridge’s approach between the trestle and the Renton Maple Valley Hwy (then State Hwy 5 and now Hwy 169).

Here is an engineer design drawing that explains how that looked.

1950-51 diagram of replacement bridge built around that time

I was somewhat confused because I imagined this bridge was the kind with a green metal super-structure. Instead this design has just a railing. It was a low profile bridge just like the current concrete one.

Next we have a bit of info on the trestle. They had a separate engineering plan for replacing part of the ramp and attaching the existing connection to the new bridge. Here is a little piece of that.

1951 engineering diagram of ramp in conjunction with the new bridge.

The dirt road approach to this ramp still exists. One would not think much of this built-up area if you didn’t know how it looked two decades ago. This “just pile of dirt” was stranded when they built the current modern bridge.

Lastly, we have support remains under the current bridge. Are these from the 1950s bridge or the prior one to that. That would be either the fourth or the third bridge in the area. They are not from the second bridge which was not in the same location.

Now let us look at the photos of this bridge built in 1950 and replaced around 2002-04.

This aerial photo was taken by the county in 1996 to document the Cedar River flooding. They posted this and many other photos under Flood Info on their iMap system.

Cedar River aerial of Cedar Mountain area in 1996 with the 1950 bridge and ramp access shown

Way back in my memory banks I have a memory of driving by this old trestle. When I went to Truck Driving School in 1981, a fellow student lived on Jones Road. Driving down Maple Valley Highway I would see this set up and think of her.

The King County Archives was a treasure trove of info and photos. I spent time searching documents labeled Cedar Mountain Bridge and marked 19 of them. Then asked the archivist to pull them. What an eyeopener all of these documents were.

These first two photos are from 1995 when the county was doing some repair work to the ramp. The bridge is in the background of the right photo and Hwy 169 and the old Cavanaugh house is in the left one. You will also see that the old Railroad has been pulled and it is a gravel trail through the area. Gives you a great overview of how all this looked.

But first I must give the correct citation on these two photos:

Left photo is – Series400-Box99-Folder5107-CedarMtnBridge-Mar1995- photo 11 – King County Archives Seattle WA.

Right photo is – Series400-Box99-Folder5107-CedarMtnBridge-Mar1995-photo 24 – King County Archives Seattle WA.

Next we have a 1988 truck accident. A boom truck fell off the ramp and of course many photos were taken of this accident by the county. This could be one of the reasons they elimnated this ramp in 2002 new bridge configuration.

These photos show not only the ramp but you can also see the green metal structure of the bridge in the background. Another feature is the railroad track which is still there. One can see how that goes under the first approach section of the main bridge.

Photo citations:

First photo – looks down Railroad track – Series400-Box89-Folder4162-BoomTruckAccidentCedarMtnBridge-Dec1988-Photo 09 – King County Archives Seattle WA

Second photo – view looking toward river – Series400-Box89-Folder4162-BoomTruckAccidentCedarMtnBridge-Dec1988-Photo 01 – King County Archives Seattle WA

Third photo – wrecked truck on track – Series400-Box89-Folder4162-BoomTruckAccidentCedarMtnBridge-Dec1988-Photo 22 – King County Archives Seattle WA

NOTE: The third photo is a reverse image. Here is a snapshot of it in the correct direction.

Then our last image from the King County Archives is a photo looking down the ramp in 1963. This photo looks south into the area it connects. Gives one a good view of the structures, the railroad and some old cars.

Photo citation: Series474-Box14-Folder3165A-CedarMtnRamp-1963 – King County Archives Seattle WA

This bridge was a straightforward replacement of the prior bridge from 1930 that had lasted about 20 years. That 1930 bridge (the 3rd) was were the bridge succession got muddy. For a long time I thought this next bridge was never built because I could find nothing but the 1929 McQuade Road pencil mention of it. In the end it got a bit more black and white.

1930 Cedar Mtn Bridge & ramp – 3rd Bridge

This was the first bridge at the current location. It is more in the style I was expecting when I searched for a photo of the 1950s bridge.

Here is the photo I found and you can see how it looks like a typical bridge often painted green. I am only guessing it was green since the photo is black and white, but that was and is the customary color used. Then again I thought it was metal but it sure looks like it is all wood. See assumptions get one in trouble!

1948 photo of Cedar Mtn Bridge courtesy of MOHAI and UW Digital Library

This bridge built in 1930 also brought us the ramp into what is now the King County Park called Belmondo’s Reach. It replaced the previous configuration where the bridge was located just up river. That bridge was connected to a road with an at-grade railroad crossing.

This is a good time to elaborate on the numbering of these bridges.

  • 3165 – the current bridge number for the 2002-04 bridge and the 1950-51 bridge.
  • 2164A – crosses current location and bridge built in 1929-30. Found confirmed in 1932 map & mentioned in light pencil edit to a 1929 map.
  • 160A – the first and second bridges that crossed from an island which is now the Belmondo’s Reach Park. 160 refers to one of the original roads built into the Cedar Mtn area and ended at this bridge with the same number.

These bridge diagrams and engineer’s drawings were the hardest to find. Finally found them after searching the Road Map Vault with many different key words and dates. You would say I did a happy dance when I found what I considered a missing link for me. Here are key pieces of the drawings.

June 1930 engineer drawing of Cedar Mtn Replacement bridge
This is a more detailed drawing of 2164A bridge – see the penciled in middle support? Must have been added later and you can see it in the photo above.
This the McQuade Ramp for the bridge. Look close for notes on old roads.

For a long time I only had these faint pencil changes of this bridge on a July 1929 road map. This was from the KC Road Maint Map Vault and is a diagram of a project to pave the Maple Valley-Renton Road.

Look close – you can see the old 160A bridge is scribbled out and the 2164A is penciled in on this 1929 paving map.

Next we have some road building that is mixed in with the bridge changes. It is hard to separate these two projects from each other so I am going to go off bridge topic to explain these old roads in greater detail.

As mentioned earlier the McQuade Road has been blended into the Jones Road and most do not understand that the bridge approach on the east side of the river had changed. Back a century ago the McQuade Road (Rd 2146) was built to replace a section of road 53 (built in 1873). Road 53 went thru his property where he had built the brick house which is still a landmark in the area. Plus that piece of the road had issues with being so close to the river and flooding regularly. It connected to the Jones Road which was added in 1885 to extend or add to 53 which cut across diagonally heading NW towards Newcastle Coal Creek Mines.

1929 drawing of proposed Road 2146 to replace Road 53.

This map above not only shows us the old bridge, the old road 53 and the new road 2146. It reveals Road 160 that comes from Issaquah that is the numbering sake of the first bridges. The map also shows the location of those 160A bridges. Also you can see how the area was a small island in the river at that time?

I also have to mention road 181 is on this map too. This is the lost road I found a year ago . Link to that article is Lost Road at Cedar Mtn. Let us just say it was a hodgepodge of roads along that side of the Cedar River.

Was the new bridge location not finalized at this point? I looked back on the documents that are attached to this map. This project of McQuade’s for a new road had started in the summer of 1925. In my notes on the West Coast Coal Mine it says that McQuade took over the mine in 1926. Then he built the brick house in 1927 and no one could figure out where he got the money to do that.

Time ticked away and not until October 1929 did the commissioners approve the McQuade road 2146. Next is a November 1929 diagram with a revision on how the bridge will appear. The best part is it shows us both approaches.

November 1929 diagram of McQuade Rd 2146 & adjusted bridge approach

This map has a lot going on here. It shows us the bridge approach, the new connection to Jones Road and who owned the properties around it. Look in the lower right corner to see ER Peoples name. He is the man who eventually owned the mine after McQuade sold or leased to Pacific Coast Coal.

I can only speculate who influenced all these decisions. McQuade, Peoples, Pacific Coast Coal, King County or perhaps even the Cedar River continual flooding all had stakes in this deal. I am betting on the coal mine and the river flooding were the main players that sealed the deal to move the bridge.

By 1932 the old bridge is not even mentioned. King County Roads section map of the area and a map of the West Coast Coal Mine both had only the 1930 bridge. Then in 1933 the paving project of the Maple Valley-Renton Road had bridge 2164A and the ramp. Not going to give you those maps but will end with a 1936 aerial that shows this bridge and the ramp so well.

1936 Aerial of Cedar Mountain Bridge, Ramp and Coal Mine across the river.

Then we have some records I found in the King County Archives talking about repairs and end of life of this 1930 bridge. At some point in it’s life span it was re-numbered to the current bridge number 3165. Perhaps that happened when they started redesigning it and the commission started using it in 1950 when it came time to demolish the old 2164A to eliminate confusion.

  • 1941 – August 18th – Approved $815 to redeck the Cedar Mtn Bridge approach – 124.30.112-KCCommish-V39-P544-Aug18-1941
  • 1949 – Sept 26th – Cedar Mtn bridge was restricted to traffic less than 5 tons due to condition of bridge starting on 10/3/1949 – bridge will be posted and it will be a misdemeanor if violated – 124.18.196-KCCommish-V47-P611-Sep26-1949
  • 1950 – Mar 14th – Cedar Mtn Bridge 3165 is closed for 240 days to rebuild the bridge – 124.161.252-KCCommish-V48-P368-Mar10-1950
  • 1950 – Mar 27th – Martin Cavanaugh request to build a coal chute on the new CM Bridge was denied. 339.24.506-KCCommish-V48-P397-Mar27-1950

The last commission request is just a note of interest. Looks like Fred & Edith Cavanaugh wanted a new coal chute built on the bridge to service the smaller mines they had on the southern hill. One of the old photos from the PNW RR Archives shows a chute on the side of the hill. So, perhaps that was what he wanted replaced.

Speaking of the railroad archives photos, what a better way to end this section but with the Pacific Northwest Railroad Archives photos. They show us the ramp and approach of this generation of the Cedar Mountain bridge and now gone ramp.

Click on the images for dates and info on each one.

That concludes the history of the three bridges from today to 1929. It is quite a bit to digest but necessary to understand the earlier bridges of Cedar Mountain located about a football field upriver.

When I get the second part complete I will update this article with a link here.

If you want to read more about my search for Cedar Mountain and other Lost Coal Mines here is a link to my directory of articles. Locating Lost Old Coal Mines of King County

Remember Times are a changing.  Blink and all will be changed. Literally, a road, a town or a railroad can disappear into the fog.


  1. This is why I like your blog so much! I’ve been trying to research the old Jones Rd bridge (Elliott Farm Bridge) next to Ron Regis park and I even emailed the library to see if they had any pictures. Thank you for doing the research!

    • This is all about the upper Jones Bridge at cedar mountain. I do have an old photo of the lower bridge. Plus ran into a few versions of it on the King County Road Maint Map Vault. I’ll send you the photo via email in a moment.

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