Great Bridges of Arizona

Jan 12, 2014

Anyone who comes to Arizona will quickly realize that ours is a state of contrasts. We have everything from sand dunes to desert scrub to the rocky Mogollon Rim and the vast, open spaces of northern Arizona.

Our diverse terrain makes for some interesting challenges when trying to build a system of roadways. As engineers overcome these challenges, they do more than just link our cities and towns together, they make some pretty cool bridges, too!

Here are some photos I have taken of great bridges in Arizona:

Burro Creek Bridge
The Burro Creek Bridge is a steel arch bridge located on US 93 north of Wickenburg. Built in 1965, it carries southbound traffic about 400 feet above the waters of Burro Creek. A second span was added parallel to the original in 2005.

Queen Creek Bridge
Just east of Superior, AZ you will find this glorious old steel arch bridge from 1949. The bridge's exact location is listed as one-half mile east of the junction of US 60 and AZ 177 in Superior. It is not to be confused with the nearly identical Pinto Creek Bridge located halfway between Superior and Miami, which was also constructed the same year.

According to ADOT records, this bridge cost $440,574 to build (in 1949) and features 1.2 million pounds of structural steel, 216,000 pounds of reinforcing steel, and just under 4,700 cubic yards of concrete. It is truly an impressive sight!

Pinto Creek Bridge
This steel arch bridge carries two lanes of traffic along US 60 between Superior and Miami, AZ. It was completed in 1949 and looks very similar to the Queen Creek Bridge. However, this bridge is located approximately 8.8 miles west of the junction of US 60 and SR 88. This bridge won an award as the most beautiful bridge in its class from the American Institute of Steel Construction in 1949.

Salt River Canyon Bridge
US 60 in Arizona follows the terrain closely as it winds its way down the Salt River Canyon. At the bottom lies this exquisite Art Moderne steel arch bridge from 1934. With its 162 foot span and decorative towers and railings, this bridge stands out among other steel arch bridges of the period. It was replaced by the Apache Bridge which opened in 1996. The Salt River Canyon bridge is now relegated to pedestrian traffic only.

Apache Bridge
The Apache Bridge (also called the New Salt River Bridge) was opened in 1996 and replaces the old Salt River Canyon Bridge from 1934. The new bridge is 380 feet long with a 186-foot main span. The sides are decorated with symbols from the Native American communities at either end of the bridge.

Apache and Salt River Canyon Bridges
Here is a shot of both of the bridges with the old steel 1934 bridge on the left and the newer 1996 bridge (red) on the right.

Roosevelt Lake Bridge
While this bridge is not historic, it is certainly breathtaking! Constructed between 1987-1990, this $21.3 million dollar bridge carries AZ 188 over Roosevelt Lake on the way from Globe to Payson. It is significant for being the longest two-lane, single-span, steel arch bridge in North America. It was recognized in 1995 as one of the top 12 outstanding bridges in the nation.

Central Avenue Underpass
Completed in 1940, this underpass is located on Central Avenue just south of Madison Street in downtown Phoenix. Originally built for the ATSF railway, the double-span bridge used a concrete rigid frame and features beautiful Art Moderne architectural styling. The bridge continues to serve heavy traffic to this day, "in essentially unaltered condition" according to ADOT.

Wickenburg Underpass
A terrible accident occurred in Wickenburg in 1935 when a tanker truck experienced a brake failure and crashed into a house, killing four people. The town of Wickenburg decided to redo the intersection and eliminate the on-grade highway crossing by building an underpass. The Wickenburg Underpass was completed in 1937 at a cost of $90,000. One bridge carries railroad traffic while the other carries vehicular traffic. It features modest Art Moderne details and has been in service for 76 years with minimal repairs. 

Wickenburg / Hassayampa River Bridge
The town of Wickenburg has been a historically important place for vehicle travel because four major highways - US 60, US 70, US 79, and US 89 all intersected here. The Hassayampa River bridge was built in 1936, replacing two previous bridges (from 1914 and 1926) that were damaged by flooding. The new bridge was a steel deck with each of its 6 spans measuring 80 feet in length - making this one of the longest bridges constructed in Arizona during the Great Depression.

It was replaced by a new four-lane bridge in 2009 and in 2010, ADOT tore down the north (westbound) span of the bridge. The south (eastbound) span has been preserved as a pedestrian bridge.

Gillespie Dam Bridge
The Gillespie Dam bridge was a vitally important crossing that carried US 80 over the Gila River. This steel truss bridge was completed in 1926 at a cost of $320,000. Its impressive 9-spans and 1662 foot-length made it the longest vehicular structure in Arizona at the time. It was used until a 1956 realignment changed US 80 and today it is still open to traffic as a county road. If you like old bridges, this one is a must-see!

Glen Canyon Dam Bridge
One of Arizona's most impressive bridges is the Glen Canyon Bridge, which was completed in 1958 just downstream from Glen Canyon Dam. This deck of this steel arch bridge is 700 feet above the Colorado River, and its 1,271 foot span stretches across the canyon majestically.

At the time it was completed, it was the highest arch bridge in the world and the second highest bridge of any type! Today, it is the 10th highest arch bridge in the world and the 3rd highest in North America, after the Pat Tillman-Mike O'Callighan Memorial /Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge and the New River Gorge Bridge.

Cameron Suspension Bridge
This suspension bridge in Cameron, Arizona was originally called Tanner's Crossing. Built in 1911, its 660-foot span connected the Navajo and Hopi reservations in northern Arizona. It was replaced by a 3-span truss bridge located just east of the existing bridge in 1959. Today, the Cameron Suspension Bridge carries a pipeline and is closed to vehicles and foot traffic.

Dead Indian Canyon Bridge
This is one bridge you don't hear much about! The Dead Indian Canyon Bridge is located in a remote part of Arizona along AZ State Route 64 between Cameron and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Built in 1934 at a cost of $45,000, this Rustic Style truss bridge has 3 spans and a total length of 301 feet. It was an important link in accessing Grand Canyon National Park until a new alignment of AZ 64 rendered the bridge abandoned. I took this photo in May 2013 from the window of a moving car.

Canyon Diablo Bridge
About 34 miles east of Flagstaff alongside Interstate 40 is the abandoned ghost town of Two Guns. There, you will find this historic bridge over Canyon Diablo from 1915. The bridge uses a unique design called a Luten arch and was the second one built in Arizona (the first one being the Canyon Padre Bridge just a few miles away and 1 year earlier). This two-lane bridge carried Route 66 traffic from 1915 through the mid-1930s and is now abandoned in unaltered condition.

Walnut Canyon Bridge 

Don't forget Winona! This Parker steel truss bridge is one mile northwest of Winona, AZ. Built in 1924, the Walnut Canyon Bridge was part of the Flagstaff-Winslow Highway which later became Route 66. It features a single 100-foot span and an overall length of 124 feet. It is no longer open to vehicles.

  Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge
The Pat Tillman-Mike O'Callighan Memorial Bridge, also known as the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, was one of the most ambitious bridge projects ever done in Arizona's history. It was part of a multi-million dollar project to reroute US 93 traffic from passing over Hoover Dam due to national security. Completed in 2010, it took 7 years to build. The arch is 840 feet above the Colorado River, making it the second highest bridge in the United States. I took this picture of the bridge from the window of a Southwest Airlines flight from Phoenix to Las Vegas in January 2013.


Anonymous said...

wonderful article with great photos. just found your blog -- thanks for your efforts!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your great photos and your interest in these structures. You included the historic bridge at Camron, but neglected to include the bridge that replaced it in 1959. It is beautiful also, and was designed by my father, Wayne T. Hunzicker, a bridge design engineer for the AZ State Highway Dept for many years. He worked on the Queen Creek and Burro Creek bridges too, along with many others in his long career. Thank you again for your interest.
Best regards,
Helen Hunzicker-Hunt

Chimera said...

You said that the Canyon Diablo bridge carried Rte 66 traffic starting in 1915 but 66 didn't exist until 1926. Still a great post!

Justin said...

Thank you for your efforts to get all that history in one place.


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