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12 Fantastic Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay Facts

The most stunning attraction in a city in northern California is one of the most amazing bridges you’ll ever come across.

It has become a symbol of the city it’s located in and cost a whopping $23.5 million to construct in the early 21st century.

In this article, you’ll discover some of the most interesting facts about the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay, an iconic bridge in California with some interesting stories to tell.

1. It spans the Sacramento River in the city of Redding

The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay is a magnificent structure in Redding, the main city in the Shasta Cascade region of Northern California and the county seat of the Shasta County.

This city has a population of nearly 100,000 inhabitants and is situated along the banks of the Sacramento River.

This is the principal river in northern California and flows south. It eventually reaches the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta and empties into San Francisco Bay.

Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay
The bridge and Sacramento River / King of Hearts / Wiki Commons

2. It’s the centerpiece of a large educational complex

The Sundial Bridge is a pedestrian and bicycle bridge that provides access between the northern and southern parts of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park.

This complex was founded in 1997 and is located in the heart of the city. It features art and history museums and a large piece of nature called the McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens or “Redding Arboretum.”

The huge tower of the bridge sticks out in this amazing place.

Sundial Bridge facts
A view of the amazing bridge / Doug Kerr / Wiki Commons

3. The bridge was designed by a renowned Spanish architect

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The bridge was completed in 2004 and officially opened on the Fourth of July of that year.

It was designed by a renowned Spanish architect named Santiago Calatrava (born in 1951), a man who has been involved in major projects all around the world.

Some of his most notable works are amazing modernist buildings such as the Turning Torso in Malmö, The WTC Hub in New York City, and the City of Arts and Sciences in his native Valencia.

This bridge is a so-called cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge, the modern version of the original cable-stayed bridge design that the Spanish architect invented.

Santiago Calatrava
Santiago Calatrava / Wilson Center / Wiki Commons

4. The bridge is much longer than it initially appears to be

Because the bridge is located in a piece of nature without any surrounding buildings, it’s hard to judge the exact dimensions of the structure.

Both the tower and the bridge itself are much longer than they initially appear to be. The tower stands 217 feet (66 meters) tall.

The bridge itself has a length of 700 feet (210 meters). Because of its unique design, the bridge deck only reaches a height of 26 feet (7.9 meters) above the river below.

Sundial Bridge height
Detail of the huge tower / Prayitno / Wiki Commons

5. There’s only one day in the year that the tower’s shadow casts the correct time

As you surely expected, the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay was designed in such as way that the huge tower of the bridge serves as a sundial.

It was designed so it points north at a cantilevered angle of 42 degrees. This allows it to serve as the gnomon of a sundial.

One of the most remarkable facts about the Sundial Bridge is that there’s only one day in the year that this gnomon’s shadow casts the correct time.

If you want to see the sundial working properly, you have to visit the bridge on the summer solstice, which is on June 21/22 of every year.

Sundial Bridge marker
The sundial’s marker / Jill / Wiki Commons

More interesting facts about the Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay

6. The Sundial Bridge is more than the centerpiece of the Turtle Bay Exploration Park. It also serves as the starting point of the Sacramento River Trail.

7. The Sacramento River Trail has a length of 35 miles (56 kilometers) and takes you along the pristine pieces of nature in the area. It eventually leads you to the most amazing dam in the region, the Shasta Dam.

Shasta Dam just north of Redding
Shasta Dam just north of Redding / Bureau of Reclamation / Wiki Commons

8. A Cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge was pioneered by Spanish architect and structural engineer Santiago Calatrava. The modern version of the cable-stayed bridge only requires one tower because of the angle at which it’s constructed.

The 42-degree angle evenly distributes the weight of the bridge to the cables that support it. A regular cable-stayed bridge such as, for example, the Golden Gate Bridge in SF requires two towers to support the cables.

9. The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay wasn’t the first bridge that features this design. The Alamillo Bridge in Seville, a major city in southern Spain, was completed in 1992 and features the same design.

Alamillo Bridge in Seville
Alamillo Bridge in Seville / Gregory Zeier / Wiki Commons

10. To construct this bridge, a large number of cables was required. These were manufactured in England and have a total length of 4,342 feet (1,323 meters).

The markers of the sundial itself are designed with broken white tiles that were important from the architect’s native Spain.

11. The cables of the bridge and white tiles of the markers aren’t the only materials that were imported. The translucent structural glass of the bridge deck was manufactured in Quebec, Canada.

Sundial Bridge Deck
The translucent glass of the bridge deck / Nathan Soliz / Wiki Commons

12. The bridge cost an astounding $23.5 million to construct, quite a large figure for a bridge that can only be used by pedestrians and bicycles.

This made it all the more remarkable that only $3 million was budgeted by the local government in the 1990s.

The idea was that the bridge would increase tourism to Redding and its attractions such as the Shasta Dam and the Turtle Bay Exploration Park.

The bridge has been operational for nearly 2 decades and it has become successful in both becoming a symbol of the city and attracting more tourists, justifying the huge cost to construct it.

Sundial Bridge fun facts
A stunning view of the bridge / Inder Wadhwa / Wiki Commons