The Donner Memorial Bridge is a concrete arch span built during the 1920s near Donner Summit in the Sierra Nevada mountains, not far from Lake Tahoe, California. The bridge used to be part of US Route 40, the primary east-west highway for motorists traveling between San Francisco and Atlantic City, New Jersey until Interstate 80 was constructed during the 1960s.
Most of the traffic is gone, but the arched bridge is still there, and the views it provides remain top-notch. Telstar Logistics maintains a Forward Operating Base nearby during the winter months, so our Tactical Recreation Units visit this sector with some regularity. Which is why we took notice when Tahoe City operative Scott Gillespie sent us this wild, wild tale about very large bear that got stuck under the historic bridge last weekend, and how said bear was subsequently rescued. Scott writes:
"I did not take these, but these are some amazing shots. A bear was walking across Rainbow Bridge (Old Hwy 40 at Donner Summit, Truckee) on Saturday when two cars also crossing the bridge scared the bear into jumping over the edge of the bridge. Somehow the bear caught the ledge and was able to pull itself to safety. At one point the bear tested its ability to climb down by lowering its feet down the side but decided against that idea and pulled itself back up! Authorities decided that nothing could be done to help Saturday night so they returned Sunday morning to find the bear sound asleep on the ledge. After securing a net under the bridge the bear was tranquilized, fell into the net, lowered, then woke up and walked out of the net."
The photos below show the trapped bear, the dramatic rescue, and a very nonchalant bear sauntering off thereafter. Stuff you won't see on Animal Planet (yet):
Bear Saved from Fatal Fall (Nevada Appeal newspaper, September 18, 2007)
Bear’s Life Hangs in Balance from Bridge (Sierra Sun newspaper, Truckee, CA, September 18, 2007)
UPDATE, OCTOBER 1, 2007:
As word of this dramatic rescue has spread, many have quite naturally wondered if the story is a hoax. The Associated Press eventually reported on it, two pathetic weeks after the incident took place. The tale told here is not a hoax, and there is now an urban-legends page at Snopes.com confirming the facts described and shown above.
(Image top: Donner Memorial Bridge in a 1940s postcard image. Bear photos by Robert Brooks, Truckee Animal Control)