Location: 18 miles south of Carmel, on Highway 1
Cost: Free
More information: Monterey County Historical
Society Web site, www.mchsmuseum.com/bixbycr.html

This icon of the California coast is the picture of form and function. The Bixby Creek Bridge was built as a linchpin in the highway chain, but it's also an architectural work of art.

The Bixby was known in the early days as Mill Creek Bridge and Rainbow Bridge, but eventually was named for Charles Bixby, the creek's first settler.

The bridge stretches just over 700 feet, its single, graceful arch rising some 260 feet above the creek bed. Rugged hills form its inland backdrop, and the blue-green Pacific rolls out in front of it.

Completed in 1932, the Bixby is one of the world's highest and longest single-span concrete arch bridges, a design used for its natural strength, spreading weight along the curve of the arch to the supports at each end.

Builders in the precarious work site used more than 6,600 cubic yards of concrete and 600,000 pounds of reinforcing steel. Cost? A reasonable - by today's standards - $202,000.

It was built in an age of architectural marvels, from the Hoover Dam to the Panama Canal. The Bixby was one of 32 bridges going up as part of the much bigger Coast Highway project, but it is widely considered the standout - photographed, filmed, painted and pored over.