Big Dam Bridge

The Big Dam Bridge, which opened to the public in 2006, is a walking, running, and bicycling bridge constructed over the Murray Lock and Dam No. 7 of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. Designed and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Southwestern Division, it attracts thousands of tourists and exercise enthusiasts to central Arkansas annually. It spans the Arkansas River to connect Little Rock (Pulaski County) and North Little Rock (Pulaski County).

The Corps of Engineers managed the construction while not using corps monies; instead, it supervised local, state, and federal funds to build the bridge to connect exercise trails through the Arkansas River Trail and 70,000 acres of adjacent public parkland. Pulaski County Judge Floyd G. “Buddy” Villines is credited with directing almost $17 million of local, state, and federal funds to finance the project. Villines spurred local and state officials to focus on the project until it was finished, promoting the bridge as a community engagement and free fitness site. According to Master Sargeant Jeff Walston of the 913th Airlift Group (and confirmed by other sources), the bridge got its name when Villines declared during a quorum court session, “We’re going to build that dam [or damn] bridge.”

The project was underway for eight years from conception to completion, and the Big Dam Bridge opened to the public on September 30, 2006; it included the construction of the adjacent Two Rivers Park (on the site of the former Pulaski County Penal Farm) and twenty-five miles of exercise paths. The length of the bridge includes on and off ramps, and it rests on fourteen concrete pylons each weighing thirty-seven tons.

The bridge features a fourteen-foot-wide deck allowing two-way traffic, stands ninety feet above the Arkansas River at its highest point, and is integrated with the Murray Lock and Dam thirty feet below. The bridge spans approximately 3,462 feet of the Arkansas River. According to engineering firm Garver USA, “Garver provided design services for the 4,122-foot-long Big Dam Bridge, constructed with spans varying from rolled beams to curved plate girder beams.” (Other official sources give its length as 4,226 feet.)

In 2012, the Society of American Travel Writers named it one of the top ten bridges to visit in the United States. The bridge contains more than three million pounds of steel and over twenty-four million pounds of concrete. It features eight observation areas, 160 LED light fixtures on the piers, sixteen LED light fixtures on the towers, and sixty-three light fixtures for walkway illumination. Restrooms and a bike repair station can be found near the base of the bridge at Murray Park. In 2016, the Big Dam Bridge was voted Best Place to Bike by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The greater Little Rock community hosts several running and cycling races throughout the year on the bridge, notably the Big Dam Bridge Twilight 5K race every July and the Big Dam Bridge 100 (BDB 100) cycling tour every September. The BDB 100 has been held since the bridge opened in 2006. Race contestants may choose routes from fifteen to 105 miles, riding through trails, paths, and roads in Little Rock, North Little Rock, Perryville (Perry County), and finally through Roland (Pulaski County). In 2023, it brought thousands of spectators and approximately 3,000 cycling participants of all ages to central Arkansas.

The Big Dam Bridge is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, unless otherwise noted. Pet owners are welcome, and the bridge features pet-friendly water fountains and potty areas.

For additional information:
“Big Dam Bridge.” Arkansas Roadside Travelogue. (accessed May 8, 2024).

Big Dam Bridge 100. (accessed May 8, 2024).

Flaherty, Joseph. “Ex-County Judge Villines, 76, Dies.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 23, 2023, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at (accessed May 8, 2024).

Romilla Snow
Little Rock, Arkansas

Staff of the CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas


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