Road Trips

The National Road in Ohio: The disrupted road in Guernsey County and the crumbling Salt Fork S bridge

Over Memorial Day weekend in 2011, my dog Gracie and I explored the National Road all the way across Ohio. That road is now US 40 in most places. I’m bringing the long trip report over from my old Roads site.

Waymor Rd.
Waymor Road, old US 40 and the National Road

I-70 and the National Road cling to each other for 18 miles between Morristown and Old Washington in eastern Ohio. Sometimes the two roads parallel each other closely; other times, they’re the same road. On this map, the blue line is the National Road. (Thanks to fellow National Road fan Christopher Busta-Peck for creating it; go here to see it on Google Maps.) As you can see, it’s often hard to tell where the National Road stops and I-70 begins.

Map data © 2012 Google.

I followed as much of the old road as still exists. Overall it was a pleasant drive, for where the forlorn National Road remains, it is peaceful. I encountered not a single soul as I explored these miles. The National Road passes into Guernsey County at Fairview, where it is known as County Highway 967 and Waymor Road. That’s westbound Waymor Road at the beginning of this article.

Maybe a mile west of Fairview, the National Road’s path was destroyed by I-70. A series of rough county roads serve as a detour, albeit a wide one. In the map excerpt below, the National Road hugs I-70 as it enters from the east and exits to the west, but is gone in the middle.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

West of the detour, the National Road is County Road 690 or Bridgewater Road. About four miles east of Old Washington I came upon the only S bridge on the entire National Road that you can still drive. US 40 bypassed it somewhere along the line, and later I-70 bypassed them both. Out here, old US 40 is Bridgewater Road.

Imagery © 2012 Digital Globe, GeoEye, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

Here’s the bridge on the ground. Check out that graceful S shape.

Salt Fork S Bridge

Here’s the bridge from the west. A plaque above the keystone reads, “1828 1936 In memory of the pioneers who built this S bridge – The Ohio Society Daughters of the American Revolution.” This bridge was built in 1828.

Salt Fork S Bridge

As I researched this bridge, I discovered that a photographer for the Historic American Engineering Record favored the same angle. The record at the Library of Congress suggests that this photo was taken after 1933, but the plaque from 1936 isn’t present. So this photo is very likely from between those years, and my guess is that it still carried US 40 then.

S bridges were built this way to allow a road that didn’t naturally approach a river or creek at right angles to cross it that way. It was less costly to build and maintain a bridge that crossed a river or creek squarely. This photo shows the southeast curve of the bridge.

Salt Fork S Bridge

My research also revealed that this bridge is in poor shape and needs considerable work to restore it to full stability. But still, it was great to be able to drive over this bridge.

In 2013, about two years after I made this trip, this bridge was permanently closed to traffic. Read about it here. At this bridge’s 2018 inspection, the most recent one as I write this paragraph, the bridge was judged to be in Poor condition, with its substructure in particular in Serious condition. The National Park Service is said to have declared this bridge to be deteriorating and unstable.

I understand that the construction of I-70 led to the demolition of other S bridges in the area. I have read that the S bridge in this postcard was one of the unlucky ones.

Notice that the caption says it was in Bridgewater, Ohio – given that I’m on Bridgewater Road, this bridge must have been nearby, but I can’t find the first hint of a town called Bridgewater. Did I-70 take both the bridge and the town? Perhaps an Ohio expert will read this and chime in.

Next: Old Washington, Ohio, on the National Road.

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4 thoughts on “The National Road in Ohio: The disrupted road in Guernsey County and the crumbling Salt Fork S bridge

  1. Awesome post. Bridges like that don’t show up around our neck of the woods often, at least that I’m aware of. It’s funny how natural certain photographic angles are, too.

    Anyway, an 1870 atlas of Oxford Township published by C. O. Titus shows the town of Bridgewater here: 40.053430, -81.325028. A 1914 plat map shows it in the same spot, consisting of 29 lots on both sides of what’s now Bridgewater Road.

    • Thank you for doing that research! I wonder then if the Bridgewater S bridge was here: 40.05627652445693, -81.3175721548972. There is a buried creek that crosses Bridgewater Road here. I’ll bet it was buried by the project that built I-70, and until then it was visible.

      Indiana never got any S bridges, to my knowledge. Ohio has the most still standing.

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