My husband comes from Rockville, Indiana, home of the famous "Covered Bridge Festival" that celebrates the numerous wooden, roofed
bridges in Parker County. My mom grew up in Berlin, where bridges adorned with stern dead men imposed their carved majesty over the
many canals flowing into the Spree River.

Me, I come from the Red River Valley, where most of our bridges are plain old concrete, utilitarian structures. Dallas even boasts the
Houston Viaduct, once considered the longest concrete bridge in the world (oh, yea). This claim is a little under whelming, although in one
episode of "Walker, Texas Ranger" the bridge acted as a portal to Mexico,  which is very, very funny to anyone familiar with Dallas.

Every once in a while, however, the views of the many creeks and rivers in this area are delightfully obstructed by iron truss bridges.

Iron, wedded with other materials like brick and stone, has been used in bridge construction since the 18th century. The very first all-iron
bridge, in an arch design, was built in England. Iron truss bridges, which were based on wooden bridge designs, became popular in
America. Forged in foundries in the mid-Atlantic and mid-western states, the bridges could be shipped via rail and then assembled on site.
They were painted either red or orange to hide the rust that would inevitably develop. By the mid-20th century, rust-resistant steel
replaced iron as the material of choice.

The ironworks who competed against each other in bridge building offered many different patterns. Their work can be readily discerned
by iron truss bridge aficionados, who can tell just by looking at the lattice and beam work which engineer designed which bridge.

Along the Red River Valley, almost all counties sport at least one old, reliable iron truss. Most people pass by them without nary a glance,
but without taking proper care of these bridges, they will become victims to "progress." Farm machinery has become too wide, car traffic
too numerous, and rail traffic too little. Sitting on byways in various states of decay, a lot of these bridges are slated for demolition, or at
least removal. Civic minded people take it upon themselves to save the trusses - many have found new homes in parks and along walking
trails.

These old bridges aren't just laying about in silent testimony of our many modes of transportation. By using iron and later, steel, these
humble marvels symbolized the America's second Industrial Age.
This long, shaky truss, with wooden planks and no support beams, lies on a dirt road near Mannsville, Carter County, Oklahoma. Locals told me
that Bonnie and Clyde had frequented the area and had camped near the bridge, and supposedly, some scenes from the movie were filmed here.
Truss Bridges (and a few others)
in the Red River Valley
Carpenter's Bluff Bridge over the Red River once served a local railroad, and now ferries cars across, one at a time. This is the Oklahoma view.
To the bridge's left is the entrance for the pedestrian/ buck board walkway. A new bridge will replace this beauty soon, but the county
commissioners of Bryan County, Oklahoma have promised that this beloved structure will remain.
An old iron truss bridge, removed from its original site, is awaiting a permanent home at Fort Richardson State Park in Jacksboro, Jack County,
Texas. Many truss bridges find second lives inside parks.
Completely concrete bridges began as a cheaper alternative and replaced truss bridges in the early part of the 20th century. By 1935, most new
bridges constructed were concrete, like this one near Petty, Texas.
The KATY - Kansas, Texas, Missouri Railroad - used to pass over this short tunnel bridge south of Colbert, Oklahoma. Today, the overpass is
burdened by Burlington Northern/ Santa Fe trains.
Railroad truss over the Red River at Fulton, Arkansas.
Calvin, Oklahoma is a bridge-hunters' paradise. This old truss still moves local traffic across the Canadian River along the now de-commissioned
roadbed of US 75. Between this beauty lie truss bridges from the Chicago Rock Island Railroad and the Missouri Oklahoma Gulf Railway.
The Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific Railroad's truss in Calvin, Oklahoma is not the easiest to access. We crashed through the overgrown
tracks to get to the span, but boy, was it worth it!
The placid waters of the Canadian River reflect the beauty of the abandoned Missouri Oklahoma Gulf Railway bridge at Calvin, Oklahoma.
BNSF (Burlington, Northern and Santa Fe Railroad) still crosses the Red River between Denison, TX and Colbert, OK just west of the former
Colbert Ferry crossing. This bridge was replaced in 1908 after immense flooding destroyed the earlier span, which was originally built for the
Missouri Kansas Texas Railway in 1872. Beneath this bridge are the remains of the old bridge's demise, in particular one very interesting piece.
Click on the photograph above to see what I'm talking about.
The 1870 truss at Fort Griffin Flat is closed to traffic. I wonder why? Ha ha. Wild turkeys still use this bridge, by the way.
This suspension bridge near Fort Griffin is accessible via a dirt road. The bridge is no longer usable, but makes for a beautiful photo
opportunity. To get to this remarkable structure, which was erected in the 1890s, take CR 179 off US 283 south of
Fort Griffin.
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com
Along the former Lee Highway (US 70) sits this truss bridge in Mannsville, Oklahoma.
The Cottonbelt truss in Garland, Arkansas now sees the Union Pacific go by. The wooden structure below the bridge once served as a steam
boat landing and erosion control measure. Learn about the history of Garland City's bridges
here!
This suspension bridge over Choctaw Creek between Sherman and Bonham (TX), was built around 1915. Before the new US 82 was built just
south of the bridge, it lay undisturbed for several years, known only to local residents. While the planks are slowly falling away, the sturdy
steel cables and iron pillars will last for probably another century.
An abandoned railroad truss along the Missouri Kansas Texas Railway near Italy, Texas. Local landowners have tried to "claim" the bridge by
fencing it off on the side. According to Texas law, railroad right-of-ways do NOT revert to landowners who happen to live along the route once
the tracks are abandoned. Instead, the ROW becomes state property (eminent domain and all that.) I've encountered too many instances of land
grabs by people who simply move their fences onto former railroad property. This practice has got to stop! It's theft, nothing less.
The truss bridge across the Trinity River from Dallas to Oak Cliff flooded in 1908 - three years later, a concrete one took its place (DHS via DMN).
The 1908 flood wiped out pretty much all the bridges in northern Texas, both road and railroad ones.
The "Index" bridge across the Red River in Arkansas, north of Texarkana, follows the straight line platted by the Adams Onis Treaty of 1819,
which separated Mexican Texas from US Missouri Territory. Notice that it's a draw bridge! Unfortunately, this structure is long gone, now.
Watch for holes!
Near Fleetwood, Jefferson County, OK and Red River Station, Montague County, Texas was a toll bridge at Ketchum's Bluff that was supposed to
bring tourists to a spa, but the business never got off the ground. The bridge, constructed in the 1920s, was burned  mid-century by its owners.
The bridge has an interesting historical connection - it spans the area (roughly) where the
Chisholm/Abliene cattle trail traversed the Red River.
Built in 1923, the "Airline Bridge" was supposed to promote business for Wilson, Carter County, Oklahoma and St. Jo, Montague County, Texas.
It succumbed after a free bridge was constructed. (Note: I think the man on the top of the span was super-imposed on the image... an early
attempt at "photo shop" as a height comparison tool. Well, at least I think so... otherwise, that's one REALLY cool dude.)
The suspended toll bridge at Telephone, Fannin County, Texas collapsed in 1940. It was never replaced. Click on the image to see what's left of
it via Google Maps.
The Railroad bridge at Ponder (Denton County, Texas) still serves the Santa Fe (now, BNSF). The road is the old Highway 24 that linked
McKinney to Decatur via
Denton.