Buffalo River Bridge

aka: Pruitt Bridge

Formerly located in Newton County north of Jasper (Newton County), the Buffalo River Bridge spanned its eponymous stream. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 9, 1990. The historic bridge was torn down in 2021 after a replacement bridge was constructed to the east; it was removed from the National Register on January 3, 2022. The area along the Buffalo River where the bridge was located is known as Pruitt (Newton County).

The site of the Buffalo River Bridge was occupied by another bridge in 1931 when discussions began about replacing it. Although the bridge present at that time was not dilapidated, engineers requested that a three-ton limit be placed on the structure. Engineers at the Arkansas Highway Department began discussing a replacement bridge in February 1931, but other projects took their attention until May. The plans for the bridge were completed in a single day, May 12, 1931, and the bidding process opened the following day.

Fred Luttjohann of Topeka, Kansas, submitted the winning bid of $55,226.09, well below the estimated cost of $65,461.43. The Virginia Bridge and Iron Company fabricated the bridge, and work to install it began on July 18, 1931.

The Buffalo River Bridge was a Pennsylvania through-truss design with Warren end spans. The total length of the bridge measured 375 feet, with the center span measuring 160 feet. Each end span measured eighty feet with a fifty-five-foot approach span on the south end of the bridge.

Each steel span contained eight panels and used both rivets and pins to connect beams. The concrete deck of the bridge measured twenty feet wide and included curbs. The entire structure rested on two concrete piers.

At the time of the bridge’s nomination to the National Register, the structure was deemed to be in excellent condition. The approach to the bridge, however, posed problems, as it curved sharply, making it difficult for users of the Old River Trail to cross the roadway. Horse riders on the trail were forced to cross Highway 7 due to the low height of the old bridge. The original bridge was also narrow and posed a danger for vehicles meeting on the span.

Efforts to save the original bridge led to a petition that proved to be unsuccessful. The new bridge opened on May 14, 2021, and riders on the Old River Trail could begin riding under the structure without dismounting. Work to dismantle the Buffalo River Bridge was completed in June 2021, with the structure officially removed from the National Register the following year.

For additional information:
Bowden, Bill. “Aging Pruitt Bridge over Buffalo River Coming down Wednesday.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 7, 2021, pp. 1B, 3B. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/jun/07/aging-pruitt-bridge-over-buffalo-river-coming/ (accessed August 18, 2023).

———. “Buffalo River Span Among Last of Kind.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, May 23, 2021, pp. 1A, 10A. Online at https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2021/may/23/buffalo-river-span-among-last-of-kind/ (accessed August 18, 2023).

“Buffalo River Bridge.” National Register for Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/docs/default-source/national-registry/NW0034-pdf (accessed August 18, 2023).

David Sesser
Southeastern Louisiana University


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