The Sylamore Creek bridge has been a part of the landscape since 1914. Photos courtesy of Julie Kohl, Seek Adventures Media and the Stone County Historical Society.

Photos courtesy of Julie Kohl, Seek Adventures Media and the Stone County Historical Society

The Sylamore Creek bridge has been a part of the landscape since 1914

VAN BUREN, ARK. – Nestled along a rural county road in Van Buren, Ark., near the ham-let of Allison, stands a structure that has connected communities since 1914.

The Swinging Bridge over Sylamore Creek was built as a part of the first road, the Big Flat-Sylamore Road, built through the Ozark National Forest by the U.S. Forest Service. The 200-foot long, one-lane, wire-cable suspension bridge is one of only two suspension bridges open to vehicle traffic in Arkansas. 

The Sylamore Creek bridge was constructed under project superintendent Ralph Huey, who also snapped photos during the construction process, which remain a part of the bridge’s provenance. 

Located at on what is now State Highway 14, horse-drawn wagons were used to transport the 4,100-pound spools of cable to the construction site. Concrete anchors and stone towers were built on both banks of the creek, and the cables were suspended. The flooring of the bridge was wooden. Once constructed, the bridge carried foot and vehicle traffic, horses and buggies, and trucks carrying everything from logs and heavy equipment. 

When the Big Flat – Sycamore Road was added to Highway 14, the Arkansas Department of Transportation rebuilt the bridge in 1945 to meet safety guidelines. New steel towers beams and boards were used, but the original cable was salvaged. 

This bridge was the primary road across the creek  until the 1970s, when a modern bridge was built at the Highways 5-9-14 junction at Allison. 

While the bridge stood tall for decades, it was no match for Mother Nature. On Dec. 3, 1982, 19 inches of rain descended on the area. Rising water and walls of flood debris swept away the bridge floor, despite its design to withstand rising and falling water. The concrete anchors set in 1914 and the original bridge cables survived.

Because the bridge was no longer part of the primary road system, there were concerns the structure would not be rebuilt. Still, the history of the Sylamore Creek bridge prompted its reconstruction, using the original abutments and steel cables. The bridge was re-built using the same blueprints from the 1940s repair and was reopened in early March 1985.

Over the years, flooding threatened the bridge, and it was placed on the National Register for Historic Places on Nov. 18, 1999. After withstanding the storms and floods, the wooden portions of the bridge, including the decking, were renovated in 2015. An Arkansas Historic Preservation Program grant provided $66,666 for the project, and Stone County contributed an additional $41,500. 

After three months of renovation, the Sycamore Creek bridge once again reopened to traffic. It remains a popular tourist stop today. For those who are faint of heart, however, visitors don’t have to drive on the bridge; they can walk over it or view it from afar.


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