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Bridges over the Suwannee

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In March we took a camping trip to White Springs, Fl.  This small town is near Live Oak and Lake City, about 150 miles north of Brooksville.  It is a straight shot north by car on I-75.  I wondered if 8 days was a bit too much in that area but was pleasantly surprised by what I could discover to do with a little online research.  I found several interesting bridges, now abandoned to cars, but open to foot or bicycle traffic.  They are still standing with beautiful views of the Suwannee and are a reminder of a simpler time when car travel was new and exciting. 

The first one I visited was the Hillman Bridge built in the mid-1920s. Located off Hwy 90 near Live Oak, it is also called the Old Ellaville Bridge or Old US Hwy 90 Bridge.  As you travel Hwy 90 you will see the yellow road signs for the side road, the pavement ending, then you just follow along to the end.  One side has a picnic area, some parking, a historical marker, and short hiking trails.  The marker notes the town of Ellaville.  It was a busy community back in 1870. It had a sawmill, produced turpentine, did logging, and had its own train station.  1,000 people.  Now it is a ghost town.  If you stop at the nearby Suwannee River State Park you may locate some remains of the town but very little is left–only the bridge and a nearby railroad bridge tell the story of another time.  The Hillman Bridge is one of the best surviving examples of Pratt metal truss bridges.  This was a patented style that was used on many bridges from 1844 to the end of WWII.  The support beams have turned a rusty orange color and at one end the vines and tree limbs have taken over.  There have not been any cars here since the mid-1980’s when a new bridge was completed a short distance away.  You can walk across the bridge, marvel at the trusses, and get a great view of the Suwannee.  

Another bridge I visited was called The Bridge to Nowhere.  It is also called the Old US 129 Bridge or Suwannee Springs Bridge.  It is located near the Spirit of Suwannee River Music Park off Hwy 129.  It is definitely a neat stop and well worth the effort.  It is covered from end to end in pop culture graffiti which is ever-changing.  Vibrant colors are everywhere, even under the supports and along every railing.  This is also a truss bridge.  There are so many writings that you can’t take it all in.  The bridge was built in 1931 and closed 40 years later when a newer structure was built.  Same as before, you can walk the bridge on foot or by bike.  Limited parking where the road ends.  The day I was there someone was adding her own personal message in spray paint.  So much paint, layer upon layer. A group of people in canoes were paddling below along the Suwannee.  I didn’t realize how long a journey that river has.  It starts in the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia and makes a snake-like path down through north Florida before ending in the Gulf of Mexico after joining parts of the Alapaha, Withlacoochee, and Santa Fe Rivers.  246 miles in all; quite a run. 

A final bridge worth noting is the Hal W. Adams Bridge on SR 51.  It is the first suspension bridge built in Florida and is located between Lafayette and Suwannee Counties.  Cars still travel on it.  Built in 1947, it lets you know with a big sign that you are crossing “way down upon the Suwannee River.”  Each bridge has its own story to tell and I enjoyed finding some of them on our trip to White Springs.

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