Cove Lake Spillway Dam Bridge

aka: Cove Creek Spillway Bridge

The Cove Lake Spillway Dam/Bridge is a five-span, reinforced-concrete, deck-arch bridge above the dam and spillway that created Cove Lake on Arkansas Highway 309 south of Paris (Logan County) at Mount Magazine. It was built in 1937–1938 under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era federal relief agency, as part of a project to develop Mount Magazine.

In 1934, the U.S. Resettlement Administration (USRA) acquired 110,000 acres on Mount Magazine in an effort to relocate farmers from the poor land available on the mountain and to develop the mountain for other uses. By 1935, the project was designated as the “Magazine Mountain Forestry, grazing, game and recreational project” in WPA records, and an effort began to improve the road from Paris and Havana (Yell County) to the mountain and to create a pair of man-made lakes.

The WPA built the Cove Creek Bridge and Cove Creek Tributary Bridge in 1936 as part of WPA Project No. 165-63-1644, which would include the Cove Lake Spillway Dam/Bridge as one of its finishing points. H. C. Schebke designed the structures.

Construction of the Cove Lake Spillway Dam/Bridge apparently began in 1937 and was completed in the spring of 1938, when the Arkansas Gazette reported that “the Magazine mountain project is a 125,000-acre demonstration. It includes two artificial lakes, Cove creek and Spring creek, and atop 2,900-[foot] Mount Magazine.” (Mount Magazine is actually 2,753 feet tall.) The Gazette later reported that, on April 23, “water ran over the spillway of Cove lake, eight miles south-east of Paris, in the Mount Magazine land-use project, for the first time today. The lake covers about 200 acres and was formed by an earth dam 784 feet long and 60 feet high. At the east end of the dam is a 118-foot spillway, 10 feet deep. Spanning the spillway is a five-arch native stone bridge.”

The Mount Magazine project was dedicated on April 28, 1938, with some 5,000 people in attendance, including a Gazette reporter who observed that “at Cove Creek lake, where there are 3.2 miles of shoreline, the lake is 60 feet deep and a diving platform and towers have been completed.”

The Cove Lake Spillway Bridge is an impressive structure, stretching approximately 120 feet. It is twenty-four feet wide with a twenty-one-foot roadway. It features five five-foot-tall arches, each spanning twenty feet; its masonry piers are nearly five feet thick. The bridge’s spandrel and wing walls are faced with ashlar masonry accented with voussoirs along its arch rings. A solid concrete barrier was added to both sides of the deck at some time after the bridge’s construction. Its associated concrete spillway begins at the edge of Cove Lake about ninety feet east of the bridge and varies from eighty-two to 118 inches in height, including a nine-foot drop in the spillway’s center to bring water into a pool that feeds into Cove Creek.

“The design of the Cove Lake Bridge remains one of the better examples of [a] masonry arch bridge that, though it presents a fairly clean and finished aspect, was nevertheless designed with the clear influence of the Rustic style,” the National Register nomination states. “The use of the five shallow arches to support the roadway above and to provide a spillway for the 170-acre Cove Lake to the east, combined with the rough texture of the ashlar-faced stone used to face the bridge’s side and arches, combine to create a bridge structure that is both functional and handsome.”

The Mount Magazine project ultimately involved around 2,500 WPA and USRA workers under the direction of V. D. Hill of Paris, a major boost to the area’s economy during the Great Depression. President Franklin Roosevelt turned the Mount Magazine project over to the U.S. Forest Service on August 30, 1938. While much of the project became part of Mount Magazine State Park, the Cove Lake Spillway Dam/Bridge is still operated by the Forest Service as part of Cove Lake Recreation Area.

The Cove Lake Spillway Dam/Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 11, 1995.

For additional information:
Bennett, Lola. “Historic American Engineering Record Cove Creek Spillway Bridge HAER No. AR-83.” Arkansas Department of Transportation. https://www.arkansashighways.com/historic_bridge/HAER%20Documents/AR-83%20Cove%20Lake%20Spillway%20(18115).pdf (accessed December 21, 2020).

“Cove Lake Recreation Area.” Recreation.gov. https://www.recreation.gov/camping/campgrounds/233834 (accessed December 21, 2020).

MacDuff, Inez Hale. “Mt. Magazine, a Real Fairyland, Given Arkansas.” Arkansas Gazette, April 29, 1938, pp. 1, 12.

“Mt. Magazine Dedication April 28.” Twice-A-Week Arkansas Gazette, April 19, 1938, p. 3.

Story, Kenneth. “Cove Lake Spillway Dam/Bridge; Ozark-St. Francis National Forest.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/LO0057.nr.pdf (accessed December 21, 2020).

“Water Pours over Spillway of Cove Lake near Paris.” Arkansas Gazette, April 24, 1938, p. 2.

Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System

Last Updated: 12/21/2020