Today was our day to visit a few sites in Waco... One that we had read so much about was the Waco Suspension Bridge. So off we went early in the morning to check it out.
Until late 1869, crossing the Brazos River at Waco could be a risky undertaking. Until then, the only way to cross was by ferry or by fording the river when the water was low. Capt. Shapley Ross had operated a primitive ferry across the river at Waco since 1849. But the Brazos could be treacherous after a rain and sometimes was impassable for days at a time. Especially to the cattle drives coming through the growing town on the Chisholm Trail, that needed a more secure crossing.
The Waco Suspension Bridge triggered Waco's transformation from frontier outpost to city. The waves of immigrants heading west after the Civil War used this easy way across the Brazos. These travelers also needed supplies and equipment of all kinds, repairs for their harness and fresh horses and mules. Waco met their demands, and it prospered and grew. The year the bridge opened, there were slightly more than 3,000 people in Waco. Ten years later, the population had more than doubled to 7,295.
Major reconstruction was done in 1913-1914. The pier towers were rebuilt and stuccoed, with the medieval crenelations supplanted by a much plainer design. Stronger steel cables replaced the original ones. Steel trusses were added on both sides to enable the span to carry heavier loads and to provide walkways. The bridge reopened in 1914 and was used by vehicular traffic until 1971, when it was retired to the rank of historical monument.
Today it is open for pedestrian traffic in a park just east of the Waco central business district near the site of the original Waco Springs. The Waco Suspension Bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places. This bridge is an incredible structure and if you ever get a chance to visit this area I highly recommend that you go see it and reflect on how it must have been in days gone by.