Exploring Oklahoma’s Bridges

Aren’t infatuations wonderful? Name most anything and I can show you someone who collects, studies or shoots at it. So to is the case with bridges.

Dirt-covered bridge off OK-72 near Haskell.Last week some folks attending our Precious Moments Tour up in Osage Beach, Missouri had invited us to come ride with them around Oklahoma City. One of their recent destinations they mentioned was Oklahoma’s longest one-lane bridge. I’d never really considered it before, but someone must measure such things.

Later that night I called home to Tulsa and mentioned this conversation to Jackie. The next morning I had an email with a link to a page about the Wanette-Byars Bridge built in 1902.

The reason it’s such a long one-lane bridge? It’s actually an old railroad bridge over the Canadian River that was converted for automotive use. Learn more on Wikipedia.

In the process of tracking down this not-so-elusive bridge Jackie discovered several sites that can only be described as portals for, you guessed it, Bridge Geeks. Who knew? Well… guess I could have guessed (see first paragraph).

But we found a wealth of information provided by these intrepid spotters of spans.

Finding historic, unusual or defunct bridges close to home is really quite easy. And interesting. We browsed for older bridges close by and found several interesting examples- mostly the metal girder style that’s shaped like a camel’s hump (turns out “camelback truss” is actually a type of bridge). One unique design that caught my eye was a bridge south of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (see photo below) that sported two inverted triangles for supports. Pretty soon we were taking notes and loading up the motorcycle for an excursion!

Unusual bridge south of Broken Arrow.Exploring historic bridges can be fun because they’re usually in rural areas- the type of place you might go for a Sunday drive anyway. The history these bridges reveal can tell you a lot about a community, the landscape or the road that passes over them. It’s also interesting to see the engineering of these older contraptions, something hidden by concrete on most modern bridges.

Make your next day trip a bridge tour. Here are a few links to get you started…

Bridge Hunter
Lists historic bridges all over the U.S. Use the map to search by state (there are currently 1495 listings in Oklahoma incidentally) or by county or by type of bridge. Most listings include photos and map links.

Oklahoma Bridges
Wes Kinsler has been cataloging the bridges of Oklahoma since November 2000. Along with photographing historic bridges and maintaining the website, he is also a founding member of the Oklahoma Highways Group. Notable sections of this site are the Bridges by Highway and the Field Guides page that you can download and take along on your travels.

Spans of Time
A dry but informative site is the product of an Oklahoma Department of Transportation project called the Oklahoma Historic Highway Bridge Project. The site offers photos of early bridges in Oklahoma and the 171 bridges identified as candidates eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. Bridges are listed mostly by type so it can be difficult to use as a reference- but it’s fun to browse.

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