Friday, February 25, 2011

Springfield Bridge

The Springfield Bridge is the oldest vehicular bridge in the state of Arkansas. It was built way back in 1874, actually a bit before the first car was introduced. The bridge remains as a sweeping structure, with two steel arches curving gracefully over Cadron Creek. It is the last remaining 19th century cast and wrought iron bowstring arch bridge in the state, and one of only three of this type of bridge remaining in the entire country. Construction on the bridge was completed on July 21, 1874. The cost was a total sum of $12,857. The bridge was replaced by a modern span in 1991, which lies about 400 feet upstream from the old bridge.

The bridge sits along the border between Faulkner and Conway Counties. When you visit it now, it seems like it sits in the middle of nowhere. But way back when the idea for the bridge was proposed, the nearby town of Springfield was the county seat of Conway County. Shortly before the bridge was built, however, the county seat was moved to the town of Lewisburg. Later on, in 1883, the county seat would be moved again to Morrilton.

The area around the bridge is surrounded by farmland and fields. There are a few homes out there, but also several abandoned homes and barns. The bridge sits in a lonely stretch of woods, and it does feel a bit forlorn to visit there. Trash and litter sit along the main road near the old bridge, which isn't a fitting welcome to what is a truly historic spot in the state.

On this visit, I met Zack in Conway and we made the short drive up to the bridge. It is pretty easy to get there, we traveled north out of Conway, through the amusingly named towns of Wooster and Bono (a town, which I assume, is where the streets have no name). We parked along the main road, near the new bridge, and got out of Zack's jeep. We were immediately welcomed by several loud bangs, apparently someone was shooting guns nearby.

It turns out the shooters were standing on the old bridge. In hindsight, it probably wasn't the wisest move for the two of us to walk up to the bridge while people were shooting guns from there. To be on the safe side, I let Zack walk in front so he could take any wayward bullets that might fly in our direction...

The two guys had holstered their guns when we approached. They were older, and they said that they lived nearby. We had a polite conversation with them about the history of the bridge. Eventually, we decided to leave and come back later. As we left, there were more loud bangs as they decided to start shooting again.

We ended up exploring more of the area, following the road to the town of Springfield. We spent some time looking around an old abandoned home, and eventually returned back to the bridge. It was empty, thankfully. We set out to do some shooting of our own, which involved an Olympus and a Canon. This was much more quieter than the hand canons that the two previous users were using...

The old bridge is neat, but it is looking a bit rough. A section of the bridge is missing, leaving a huge gap and exposing the creek below. The wooden beams of the bridge are severely rotten in places, so it's best to watch your step when you're out there...

The view from below the bridge...

And the bridge from the other side...

It's a bit of a shame to see the bridge in this kind of condition. It would be awesome if the bridge was preserved, and maybe even be the centerpiece of some sort of park. But that will probably never happen, since the area here is remote.

There's no telling how much longer the bridge will be around. There is a large dead tree standing a few feet from the bridge. When that tree finally decides to topple over, it will probably land on the old bridge and destroy it.

On the way home, we stopped and got a few shots of this neat old barn...

This is some of the detail of the weathered wood on the barn. Beyond the gap in the wood here, part of the wall had collapsed.

And one last shot, looking through the old barn...

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