Highway 7/51 Bridge

aka: Arkadelphia Bridge

The Highway 7/51 Bridge crosses the Ouachita River in Arkadelphia (Clark County). The bridge was originally placed in 1933 at the Arkansas Highway 7/U.S. Highway 67 crossing of the Caddo River north of Arkadelphia. It was moved to its current position in 1960 and added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 1, 2006. It is also known as the Arkadelphia Bridge.

The Ouachita River played an important role in the settlement of Arkadelphia, with the town growing along the western bank of the river. While the shallow nature of the river made most water travel impossible, locals were able to ship goods down the river in small craft. The arrival of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad in 1873 shifted the community’s commercial focus to this new form of transportation. The arrival of automobiles in Clark County in the early twentieth century brought an increased focus on roads in the area, and a bridge was placed over the Ouachita leading from eastern Clark County to Arkadelphia. The road carried by the bridge is Caddo Street, and the eastern end of the bridge marks the city limits of Arkadelphia.

A single-lane Parker truss bridge was in place over the Ouachita before the installation of the current structure. The current bridge was constructed in 1933 over the Caddo River on Arkansas Highway 7/U.S. Highway 67. A steel-and-concrete structure, it was replaced in the late 1950s by the current bridge in that location. Rather than being destroyed, the old bridge was disassembled and placed in storage before being placed over the Ouachita in 1960. Several builders are associated with the bridge. The Virginia Bridge and Iron Company constructed the original bridge over the Caddo River, and it was placed by the Luten Bridge Company. The Arkansas Highway Department dismantled the bridge, while R. N. Reynolds and Sons reassembled the bridge over the Ouachita.

The bridge is a Parker through truss measuring 202 feet. Two concrete approach spans are attached to the bridge at each end, making the entire structure 503 feet long. The deck is constructed of concrete over steel girders. The deck is twenty-four feet wide and carries two lanes of traffic. The entire structure rests on two concrete piers.

On June 28, 2016, a truck crossing the bridge struck multiple beams on the superstructure, forcing the closure of the bridge. On July 7, the bridge reopened with a single lane of traffic; several weeks later, it completely reopened. Construction (scheduled for completion in 2018) began on a new bridge just to the south of the current bridge designed to replace the structure. Preservationists also started an effort to preserve the structure as a pedestrian walkway.

For more information:
“Arkadelphia Bridge.” Bridgehunter.com. https://bridgehunter.com/ar/clark/arkadelphia/ (accessed September 17, 2019).

“Highway 7/51 Bridge.” National Register for Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/CL0950.nr.pdf (accessed September 17, 2019).

March, Mary Tyler. “Hit by Truck, Arkadelphia Bridge Closed.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, June 29, 2016, pp. 1B, 6B.

Richter, Wendy, et al. Clark County Arkansas: Past and Present. Arkadelphia, AR: Clark County Historical Association, 1992.

David Sesser
Henderson State University


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