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I’ve traveled all across Arkansas, visiting state parks, museums, picturesque town squares, and off-the-beaten-path treasures. As I’ve meandered through the charming landscapes of Arkansas, I’ve also noticed that this state is home to some seriously stunning bridges.
These captivating structures not only connect two points but also bridge the gap between functionality and artistry, and this list includes some of the prettiest and most photogenic bridges. From quaint wooden structures that seem to whisper tales of the past to modern architectural marvels that effortlessly blend with nature’s beauty, the Natural State has a bridge for every taste.
Constructed from 1926 to 1931, the Ozark Bridge on Highway 23 spans the Arkansas River and garnered national recognition for its exceptional design, earning the distinction of “most beautifully designed bridge in the United States” by the American Institute of Steel Construction. The adjacent stretch of Highway 23 is a beloved pilgrimage route for Razorback fans, guarding the gateway to the scenic Ozark National Forest and the iconic Pig Trail Byway.
Built in 1907 by the Illinois Steel Bridge Company, the War Eagle Bridge was one of only six Parker trusses constructed in the state, showcasing a unique architectural design. Initially serving as a vital transportation link for the surrounding community, the bridge now serves as an entrance to War Eagle Mill, the only operating grist mill in Arkansas. The one-lane bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on November 19, 1985.
Originally constructed as a railroad bridge in 1884, the Junction Bridge allowed the Choctaw and Memphis Railroad to cross the Arkansas River. The design was modified in 1917 to accommodate heavier vehicles, becoming the primary public bridge until the Broadway Bridge opened in 1923. In 2008, Pulaski County transformed the structure into a pedestrian bridge, offering stunning views of the river and connecting the thriving downtowns of Little Rock and North Little Rock.
The Beaver Bridge is sometimes called the Little Golden Gate Bridge for its resemblance to the bridge in San Francisco, California, which inspired its design. Just eleven feet wide yet 554-feet long, the historic suspension bridge carries Highway 187 traffic over the White River to the tiny town of Beaver. The beloved landmark has been showcased in the movie Elizabethtown and it a popular destination for leaf-peeping motorcyclists.
The Sylamore Swinging Bridge in Allison, has been a cherished landmark since its construction in the early 1900s. Initially built to provide access to the newly established Ozark National Forest, the bridge quickly became an integral part of the community’s transportation network, facilitating the movement of goods and people. Over the years, the bridge has undergone several renovations, including a major rebuild in 1982-83 following flood damage. Today, the Sylamore Swinging Bridge stands as a symbol of resilience and adaptability, a testament to the enduring spirit of the Ozark region.
Constructed in 1924, the Judsonia Bridge has a unique cantilevered swing truss design that allows for both vehicular and river traffic to navigate the Little Red River safely. When river traffic announced its approach by sounding a horn, a local man would run down and manually turn the center pier of the bridge with a lever. Many of the town’s youth enjoyed riding on the center section as it was turned. The bridge underwent restoration from 2007 until 2013, and while it is still usable for vehicles, the cantilever section is no longer operable.
Soaring over the Arkansas River in Little Rock, construction on the Big Dam Bridge began in 1996 and was completed in 2006. With a span of 4,040 feet, it holds the distinction of being the longest pedestrian and bicycle bridge in the world designed for that purpose. The bridge’s design, inspired by the graceful curves of the river, seamlessly blends aesthetics with functionality. Offering breathtaking views of the city and the Arkansas River, the Big Dam Bridge has become a local landmark and popular destination for locals and tourists alike.
The Natural Bridge is one of Arkansas’s geological wonders that has captivated visitors for centuries. Over time, the persistent erosion from Little Johnny Creek’s relentless flow carved its way through the rock, gradually creating the natural archway that we see today. The Natural Bridge’s historical significance extends beyond its geological origins. Native Americans revered the site as a sacred place, believing it possessed spiritual energy. Early pioneers utilized the archway as a natural crossing, facilitating travel and trade throughout the region. Today, the Natural Bridge can be toured from mid-March through mid-November.
Originally constructed in 1929, the Cotter Bridge’s design, patented in 1912 by James Marsh, features six Marsh Rainbow Arch spans, a unique and aesthetically pleasing form of truss construction. Also known as the R. M. Ruthven Bridge and the White River Concrete Arch Bridge, the bridge’s completion marked a pivotal moment in Cotter’s development, replacing an outdated ferry system and providing a vital link between the town and surrounding communities.
By fostering a connection with the historic architecture around us, we preserve our towns’ legacy and deepen our appreciation for the places we call home. So, grab a friend, a camera, or simply your sense of curiosity, and set out to uncover the bridges that stand as silent witnesses to the passage of time – because every arch, every beam, tells a tale worth exploring in your own neighborhood. If you are interested in learning more about Arkansas Bridges, the Arkansas Historic Bridges and Roads Facebook group is a great place to get started.
All photos courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism unless credited otherwise.
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