Photo by Wes Bunch
Drive alongside any river or creek in Scott County and you're bound to stumble upon one of its numerous swinging suspension bridges.
Currently there are 13 swinging footbridges maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation scattered across Scott County. That equals roughly a quarter of the 54 swinging bridges found in VDOT's 13-county Bristol District.
In addition to those, dozens of other privately built and maintained bridges can be found spanning creeks and rivers from Fairview to Fort Blackmore.
VDOT's bridges are found on both the Clinch River and North Fork of the Holston River, as well as on major creeks like Copper Creek and Big Moccasin Creek.
The largest of the bridges, located on the Clinch River at Slant, measures 413 feet across. The Slant bridge is the longest publicly accessible swinging bridge in the Bristol District.
According to VDOT records, most of the public bridges came under its care in 1932 with the passage of the Byrd Act.
VDOT District Bridge Engineer Gary Lester said the bridges were built as a means of access for locations that had to ford a river or stream. Many of the footbridges, he said, are adjacent to former fords or ferry locations.
Only five swinging bridges in the Bristol District currently serve as a primary access for a residence. Two of those are located in Scott County.
Lester said VDOT does perform maintenance on the bridges when the opportunity arises, although several have been closed in the recent past due to their worsening condition.
While the bridges don't serve the same purpose as when they were built, they do provide a glimpse into the history of Scott County and its residents.
The swinging bridge located on Route 614 near Wadlow Gap is placed near a ford that was used by Daniel Boone and other settlers in the 18th century as they traveled west along the Wilderness Road.
Others, like those located in Slant near the Scott County-Hawkins County line on Angler's Way, served important uses for their communities, allowing children to attend school and families easy access to local churches.
Scott County has sought to capitalize on the uniqueness of the bridges by featuring the publicly accessible ones on the county's website, and on social media. River access points have also been built in close proximity to several bridges, which serve as a backdrop to those visiting the water.
While the VDOT-maintained bridges are open to the public, officials say to respect nearby property owners and avoid things like littering or straying from the right of way. It is also advised to avoid accessing private footbridges without the owner's consent.
For more information about the bridges, contact Scott County Tourism at (276) 386-6521.comments powered by Disqus