This wonderful bridge is on old Route 66 in Canadian County, Oklahoma. At 3,944.3 feet, its 38 Camelback Pratt pony trusses undulate mesermisingly as you drive through.
This bridge’s future is uncertain. As I wrote here, this 1933 bridge didn’t fare well at its last inspection and officials recommend it be replaced. This isn’t like many other old Route 66 bridges, on some long ago alignment carrying only local traffic. This bridge is still part of the US highway system, carrying US 281 over the South Canadian River. While I stood here to make this photo, many semis whizzed by me.
Options on the table include building a new bridge nearby to carry US 281 and leaving this one in place for Route 66 drivers to continue to enjoy. I hope that option wins.
You’ll find this “Route 66 Historic Route Begins” sign on Adams St. at Wabash Ave. in Chicago — one block away from where the route actually begins, at Michigan Ave.
A smaller, standard brown Historic Route sign marking Route 66’s actual beginning is bolted to a pole right at Adams and Michigan. I thought I had a photograph of it, but alas. This page has several. The official End Route 66 sign is one block away, on Jackson Blvd., as Adams is one way west and Jackson is one way east.
On this Thanksgiving Day, enjoy these photos of the famous Route 66 turkey tracks. When Illinois paved what would become Route 66 in concrete, a turkey walked into the still-wet road and left his mark for the ages. They’re in Illinois, on an old alignment of what is now State Route 4 north of Carlinville. Click here to see the location on Google Maps!
It is perhaps the most iconic bridge on all of Route 66, this yellow pony-truss bridge of an incredible 38 spans. Known by three names — the William H. Murray Bridge, the Bridgeport Bridge, and the Pony Bridge — it was built in 1933 to span the South Canadian River, 21 miles west of El Reno, Oklahoma. And it’s in trouble.
At its last inspection, this bridge rated 34.9 out of 100, earning it the “Structurally Deficient” label and a recommendation the bridge be replaced. I am sure it doesn’t help at all that this bridge carries US 281 and so needs to stand up to heavy trucks and high volume, and is only 24 feet wide, considerably narrower than the modern standard for highway bridges.
Yet it still stands, and is not entirely without hope. It is part of a segment of Route 66 listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the bridge itself is eligible for nomination to the NRHP. And now the preservationists are involved: Preservation Oklahoma features the bridge in its 2016 Endangered Places list.
Driving this bridge was a highlight of the Route 66 tour I took with my sons in 2013. At 3,944.3 feet — that’s nearly three quarters of a mile — the spans just kept on coming. They were mesmerizing, almost hypnotizing, as they undulated past.
Here’s hoping that this bridge has a long and happy life ahead of it. The Oklahoma Department of Transportation is studying several proposals for the US 281 crossing of the South Canadian River, and all of them involve either restoring this bridge or building a new one while leaving this one in place. Unfortunately, one alternative not off the table is to do nothing. Given the bridge’s current state, this might be why Preservation Oklahoma considers it endangered.
Every answer but “do nothing” takes money, of course. Here’s hoping Oklahoma can make enough money appear to keep this bridge open for generations to come.