Highway 7/51 Bridge

aka: Arkadelphia Bridge

The Highway 7/51 Bridge was placed across 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 position over the Ouachita in 1960 and added to the National Register of Historic Places on February 1, 2006. It became known as the Arkadelphia Bridge. After being damaged, this historic bridge was replaced by a new bridge in 2018.

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 was Caddo Street, and the eastern end of the bridge marked the city limits of Arkadelphia.

A single-lane Parker truss bridge was in place over the Ouachita before the installation of the new structure. A steel-and-concrete bridge was constructed in 1933 over the Caddo River on Arkansas Highway 7/U.S. Highway 67, and 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 for several years before being reassembled and 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 in the late 1950s, and R. N. Reynolds and Sons reassembled the bridge over the Ouachita in 1960.

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 intended for two lanes of traffic. The entire structure was built 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.

A new bridge opened in 2018 just to the south of the historic bridge, which is no longer accessible to motor vehicles. The Arkansas Department of Transportation made the historic bridge available for donation to a responsible party in 2021, and ongoing efforts to preserve the structure as a pedestrian walkway have continued.

For more information:
“Highway 7/51 Bridge.” National Register of Historic Places registration form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Office, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at https://www.arkansasheritage.com/arkansas-historic-preservation-program (accessed May 16, 2024).

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

“Old Arkansas 51 Bridge Needs a New Home.” Magnolia Reporter, February 19, 2021. https://www.magnoliareporter.com/news_and_business/regional_news/article_68a03b36-71cc-11eb-9dad-d7060cfa6c12.html (accessed June 11, 2024).

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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