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
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

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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

http://joedempseyphoto.com/

http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/

http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

Bridges in the boondocks


Springfield Bridge over Cadron Creek near Springfield, Arkansas was completed in 1874. It was in continuous use for 117 years until 1991 when a new bridge was built upstream. Since maintenance has stopped on the bridge, it is rapuidly deteriorating. However, the fact that it is still standing after 135 years in the elements tells us someone did something right when they designed and built the bridge.

Springfield Bridge over Cadron Creek near Springfield, Arkansas was completed in 1874. It was in continuous use for 117 years until 1991 when a new bridge was built upstream. Since maintenance has stopped on the bridge, it is rapidly deteriorating. However, the fact that it is still standing after 135 years in the elements tells us someone did something right when they designed and built the bridge.

The story of  Springfield Bridge started on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer.com.  Click here see more bridge pictures and find out how this thing started.

The bridge was bolted together. Nuts for the bolts are square shouldered. The bridge rests on native stone masonry supports on each end. The approaches are under gird with what appear to be 12″ x 12″ bridge timbers. These timbers for the most part,  are intact.

During winter months when the trees have dropped their leaves, you can get a glimpse of the old bridge from the road. Not so once the leaves sprout.

Leaves and vines dropping on the floor of the bridge have, over the years, created a layer of humus. No doubt, a good crop of grass will grow on the bridge in warmer months.

This is the east end of the bridge. In he lower right, you can see one of the 12 x 12 bridge timbers which support the bridge approach. Leaves and vines dropping on the floor of the bridge have, over the years, have created a layer of humus or compost. Take your choice. No doubt, a good crop of grass will grow on the bridge in warmer months.

A bit further north, just east of Morrilton AR is another abandoned bridge, Creek Road Bridge. Putting yourself next to Springfield Bridge is a short stroll from the highway. Creek Road Bridge is another story. The road to the bridge dead ends well east of the bridge. The dead end is solid underbrush. Closer inspection reveals a hint of a path, but it is helpful if you are a contortionist when you negotiate it. I’m not and my bones still ache.

Not far from the Creek Road bridge are these remains of an old vehicle. The right fender and the hardware which held the radiator in place are still there, but just barley. How it wound up in a creeks bottoms will remain a mystery.

Not far from the Creek Road bridge are these remains of an old vehicle. The right fender and the hardware which held the radiator in place are still there, but just barley. How it wound up in a creeks bottoms will remain a mystery.

You wind your way through a grave yard of former impromptu dumping sites, now overgrown, but still somewhat crunchy under your feet. While this sounds a bit on the gross side, it is preferrable to being up to your ankles in mud, an all-too-familiar condition in creek beds. I ran across the remnants of a late 30s or mid 40s pickup truck just a few yards from the bridge.

Here it is. Creek Road Bridge, east of Morrilton. Visiting the bridge is appropriate for hardy souls only. It is not far from the road, but the pathway is thick to say the least. I base these comments on late winter conditions before the "wait-a-minute" vines and "sticker" bushes have reached their warm weather potential.

Here it is. Creek Road Bridge, east of Morrilton. Visiting the bridge is appropriate for hardy souls only. It is not far from the road, but the pathway is thick to say the least. I base these comments on late winter conditions before the "wait-a-minute" vines and "sticker" bushes have reached their warm weather potential.

I came back from this trip bloodied, muddied and grinning like a jackass eating sawbriers. It’s a nasty job, but someone’s got to do it. I did observe one nicety at the old Springfield Bridge. As I was leaving the bridge site, a  couple in their twenties drove up to go see the bridge. There is hope.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe