A tale of two bridges, twice told

Bridges over white river at DeValls Bluff AR

Click on the bridges for the original Weekly Grist post.

I am sending you back in time to September, 2009  when I visited DeValls Bluff, Arkansas, where you can see something you can’t see anywhere else.

The town is renowned for barbeque at Craigs, just down the street from the Family Pie Shop. Famous may be an understatement for these two establishments, legendary might be more accurate.

bridges at DeValls Bluff AR

Click on the bridge for our original Corndancer story

However, I was not in DeValls Bluff to eat. I was there to shoot their bridges over the White River. The newer one takes U.S. Highway 70 over the river and rises high to accommodate barge traffic. It’s neighbor, not much more than a good rock throw away, is an out-of-service railroad bridge. The two together are quite a sight to see, so I am sending you back there this week. Click to see our original Tale of Two Bridges post.

Since the majority of my fellow Arkansans and the rest of the world are not frequent visitors to DeValls Bluff, I considered it my duty to rectify this cultural deprivation with pictures and a story. If you do happen to go to DeValls Bluff, go there hungry.

Be sure and check out our original Corndancer dot-com Photo of the Week story for more info and pictures.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


A tale of two bridges

The unexpected, towers from the abandoned rail bridge next to the highway bridge, shot through the windshield, on  a long zoom which tends to bring the towers closer together.

The unexpected, towers from the abandoned rail bridge next to the highway bridge, shot through the windshield, on a long zoom which tends to bring the towers closer together.

As you first cross the U.S. Highway 70 bridge just north of DeValls Bluff, Arkansas you are taken aback by the sight of two drawbridge towers left over from a bygone era. The towers are part of the former Cotton Belt Railroad bridge over the White River next door to the highway bridge. The old bridge was taken out of service in 1982. A DeValls Bluff businessman bought the bridge for $1.00 and still owns it.

This story got its start on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com. Click here to see more pictures of the bridge(s) and get in on the start of the story, a very cool thing to do.

Fortunately there is a road leading through a small riverbank community of houses on stilts which goes nearly to the foot of the old bridge. After that, it is simply a matter of inching down a steep riverbank reinforced with rip-rap to get into the correct place for a low-angle shot. It is a slow, deliberate traipse over impending disaster with a tripod, camera and a couple of lenses.

from te banks

From the riverbank, the old bridge is massive and impressive. Since the river is very low now, I was able to set up much lower in the river bed that I would under normal conditions. This accentuates the wide angle perspective. Considering its age, the old bridge is holding up well.

Turns out the real menace was a small strip of slick mud close to the water which put me on my duff near the water’s edge. Nothing was hurt but my feelings and I did get  a closer look at the ‘coon tracks left over from last nights coon supper. The view from the banks was worth the trouble. From where I was, I decided I wanted get closer to the old bridge. And that I did.

Looking down the bore, so to speak, after a climb up a homemade ladder.

Looking down the bore, so to speak, after a climb up a homemade ladder. At the upper left, the extensions from the bridge held railroad signal lights. Telephone and telegraph wires were strung across the right side. The gravel pile in the foreground was dumped there to discourage wheeled interlopers from the entering the abandoned bridge. You can see the bottom half of the north lifting mechanism counterweight in the middle of the bridge.

After a short stomp through some low weeds in a small stand of trees, I found the north end of the old bridge. It terminated as a wall. Lo and behold, there was a ladder (homemade and old, but sturdy), leaning against the wall. I’m guessing the wall and ladder are in the 16′ foot range in height. With a mite of trepidation, I climbed the ladder, stepping over one rung which appeared not capable of holding my weight.

Questioning my presence

After I arrived at the top, I was no longer in the convenient defilade afforded by the underbrush below. I was on the old bridge and in plain view. bigger’n Dallas. I said to my self, self, before you finish shooting up here, someone is going to arrive on the scene and question your presence. My prognostications were correct. I completed my shots and was tearing down equipment and preparing to descend, when I heard a four-wheeler engine approaching. Company was arriving.

No harm intended or perpetrated

In a few minutes, as I was about to start my descent, a young man toting a .22 rifle appeared at the bottom of the bridge and asked if I had encountered any red wasps on the bridge. I allowed as how I hadn’t, but I did take a number of pictures. He was a polite man and we engaged in a conversation. He became convinced that my intentions were honorable and that I had done no harm to the bridge. Concurrently, I became convinced that he would do no harm to me. Turns out he lives nearby and keeps an eye on the bridge for his friend the owner. He was doing his due diligence and had no idea what to expect. The bridge is normally festooned with “Posted” signs which were obliterated in a spring flood and never replaced. To me, that means open season. He was satisfied. I was satisfied. And I got the shots. All’s well that ends well.

Paul Hofstad, DeValls Bluff, Arkansas

Paul Hofstad, DeValls Bluff, Arkansas

This trip to DeValls Bluff was the second one in as many days. The day before, I took the shot at the top of the page and afterward, decided that it was foolish to drive and shoot simultaneously,  and harbor any expectations of a lengthy life.

To solve the problem, I garnered the services of a young man by the name of Paul Hofstad. I suggested that if he would allow me in the bed of his pickup and he ferried me across the highway bridge as I shot, he would have an extra ten bucks on Saturday night. The deal was struck and the picture is below.  Paul is a student at Phillips Community College. He is nearly finished with his course of studies  in wildlife management which he hopes will culminate in a job with the federal wildlife service. Thanks and good luck Paul.

Shot from the bed of Paul Hofstad's red Ford pickup.

Shot from the bed of Paul Hofstad's red Ford pickup.

“And now, as the sun slowly sinks in the west,” we are pleased to present the next entry in our continuing display of Joe Webb’s magnificent collection of signs. This time, dig the old, old, er … ancient,  Pepsi logo.

The sho' nuff old, old, old, er ... ah, ancient Pepsi logotype

The sho' nuff old, old, old, er ... ah, ancient Pepsi logotype

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey




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