Two old Saline River bridges

The Saline River starts out in the Ouachita Mountains west of Benton, Arkansas with four forks. The four forks converge near Riverside in Saline County, Arkansas. The river leaves Saline County and winds on a serpentine path through Grant, Dallas, Cleveland, Bradley, Drew, and Ashley Counties. It empties into the Ouachita River near Felsanthal in Ashely County.

Before we go too much further, this “old bridge” story actually started in Mooringsport, Louisiana with a story about and pictures of an old draw bridge on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to see the old Mooringsport bridge and get the story.

Old Saline River Bridge west of Tull, Arkansas

Tull Bridge over the Saline River, west of Tull, Arkansas was finished and opened for service in 1916. The bridge was in use until it was replaced in 2005. I have driven over the one-lane bridge on many occasions. Though the wooden floor rattled loudly as you drove over the bridge, you finally become accustomed to the noise after enough trips to gain confidence that the rusty structure would indeed keep you high and dry.

I first came across the Tull Bridge the mid-seventies. It was a ferrous oxide poster child and rattled like a box full of bones then, but there was a certain charm to traversing a bridge with a wooden floor. That certain charm for the most part, ameliorated the fear and trepidation brought about by the attendant sound effects.

East view of the Tull Bridge

Looking at the Tull Bridge from the east bank of the Saline River. You can see the floor planking, the source of the bridge's percussion serenade as you dared to venture across it. the new bridge, completed in 2005 is visible in the picture to the right.

Even the approaches to the Tull Bridge were planked with wood. The approaches did not rattle like the planks on the bridge. On most trips across the bridge, if other traffic was not present, I would stop on the bridge and get out of my vehicle just to look at the construction. Don’t tell my mother I did this.

Side view from the north of Tull Bridge

Looking south from the new bridge, you get a view of the bridge not afforded until the new bridge was completed. And you begin to think, " ... I drove across that sucker a bunch of times."

If you seriously travel central and southeast Arkansas, crossing the Saline River is inevitable. On this trip, I lost count of the number of times I crossed it. Like most rivers, as it progresses downstream, it becomes a bit but not overly turbid. Under normal circumstances, the waters of the forks, originating in Ouachita Mountains, are gin-clear.

Upstream side of old North Fork Saline River Bridge

The upstream side of an abandoned bridge across the North Fork of the Saline River off Arkansas Highway 128 near the junction with Arkansas Highway 5.

Meanwhile, a county or so away,
still yet another abandoned bridge beckoned

This bridge in northern Garland County, Arkansas was built by a county road department in 1931. It has been replaced by a newer bridge which I was standing under to get the shot above.  The bridge is a favorite for photographers, but not at this angle. It took some delicate steps over some serious rip-rap at the base of the bridge to set up for the shot.

County road departments these days, it appears, eschew the obvious aesthetic considerations their predecessors put into this one. It is graceful with a shape reminiscent of a gull in flight. Not an easy appearance to achieve with concrete. They did well and someone was thinking in the right direction to leave the bridge standing. Whomsoever you are, thanks.

Down stream side of North Fork Saline River Bridge

One can see the second arch in this bridge from the downstream side. The sturdy bridge has a classic, but bruised bridge beauty. Even in rural Arkansas, grubby graffiti shows up.

It’s nice to see a couple of old bridges which did not suffer destruction. We’ll look for more.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind