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. It's not advisable to walk
on it, though, because most of its wooden planks are missing.
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 (King of Highways). 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.
Another old Lee Highway (US 70) bridge, this time east of Durant, Oklahoma,
where the Blue River crosses beneath.
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 in Grayson County, Texas, 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 at Fort Griffin Flat leads to nowhere.