Frisco - Fort Smith Bridge -- Van Buren AR
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Benchmark Blasterz
N 35° 25.971 W 094° 21.879
15S E 376128 N 3921901
Quick Description: 1916 swing-span drawbridge was modified in 1976 after a Corps project to enhance navigation on the Arkansas River. The 1916 swing span still exists, but has been locked since 1976, when a vertical lift span was installed.
Location: Arkansas, United States
Date Posted: 1/20/2015 3:46:36 PM
Waymark Code: WMN8VJ
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member veritas vita
Views: 2

Long Description:
An awesome 1916 drawbridge (with a vertical lift span installed in 1976) over the Arkansas River just west of Van Buren. The bridge was originally built as a swing-span bridge by the St Louis and San Francisco Railroad.

This is the 2nd bridge over the Arkansas at this location. The FULL history of the multiple bridges here, including AWESOME historic photos and disaster pics of floods that washed away sections of this bridge, can be found on this AMAZING website by Mike Conden: (visit link)

". . . That second bridge [the waymarked bridge -- BMB] went through three stages: as built, as rebuilt after 1943 flood, and for the Kerr-McClellan navigation project...

. . .
Although it was by all accounts a fine bridge, the original Van Buren Frisco Bridge was overtaken by the growth of railroads in the 20th Century. Locomotives and other equipment rapidly increased in size and old bridges could not handle the latest equipment. In November of 1913 the Frisco undertook the ambitious project of replacing the metal superstructure of the original Van Buren bridge with new trusses which were over twice as heavy, to handle axle loads which had also doubled by that time. . . The loss of a span before the "second" bridge was even finished seems to have been a sign of things to come. This bridge has lost several spans to floods and modernization projects through the years and only about half of the original "second" bridge now remains. [Contributed by John Dill]

. . .

Flood of Spring 1943

Newspaper accounts say that the "1943 flood" actually consisted of two separate floods, extremely close together. The first flood occurred in mid May. The southern approach to the Frisco bridge washed out. When pier 10 was undercut and went with it, this collapsed the southern end of the last span (#8) into the River on Wednesday May 12. (This "first flood" crested at 41.7 feet at Fort Smith on May 12.) The southern approach to the Van Buren Free Bridge washed out also. During this flood Frisco employees probably saved the bridge by walking across it from Van Buren and cutting the rails between the bridge and the approach shortly before the approach washed out. One newspaper account states that this first flood also destroyed the "support blocks" on the Van Buren side allowing the beams of the first span to drop directly onto the supporting piers. This "first flood" crested at 41.7 feet at Fort Smith on May 12.
After the "first flood" the missing southern approach to the Free Bridge was replaced with a temporary pontoon bridge, primarily to restore Fort Smith's water line connection with Lake Fort Smith.

The "second flood" occurred before the water completely receded and much could be done about the damage which was already done. The crest at Fort Smith this time was 38.8 feet on May 23. This was the flood which apparently finished off the first span (Van Buren side). This "second flood" also destroyed a large section of the pontoon bridge which had temporarily restored water to Fort Smith. . . . [Researched by John Dill]

. . .

The SL-SF bridge was redone for the navigation project [The Kerr-0McClellan Navigation project, which dredged a new channel in the Arkansas River, rendering the old swing span obsolete -- BMB]

. . .
As part of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, a new vertical lift span was installed in the location of the new channel. This required removal of three of the old spans and replacement by the lift span and the short silver span."

Blasterz have jokingly referred to this bridge as "Frankenbridge," since over its near-100 years of use it has been partially washed out, repaired with a mix of truss types, and has been reconfigured from swing-span drawbridge to a vertical lift drawbridge.
Bridge Type: Vertical Lift Bridge

Built: 1/1/1916

Span: 2200 feet

Pedestrian Traffic: no

Bicycle Traffic: no

Vehicular Traffic: no

Railway Traffic: yes

Visit Instructions:
Take a picture of the bridge and record the exact coordinates where the picture was taken.
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Recent Visits/Logs:
Date Logged Log User Rating  
Benchmark Blasterz visited Frisco - Fort Smith Bridge -- Van Buren AR 1/22/2015 Benchmark Blasterz visited it