The Low Water Bridge
In the center of old Platt National Park, near the Pavilion Springs, are three structures that make the area unique. They are the Lincoln Bridge, the Black Sulphur Springs Pavilion and the Black Sulphur Springs Causeway or what is known locally as "The Low Water Bridge".
Now, there is another low water bridge in old Platt at the east end of the park. This bridge crosses Travertine Creek between the Cold Springs Campground and Little Niagara. It is normally referred to as "the crossing at Sycamore Falls".
When the Reservation was first established in 1902, there was a huge sand bar in the area of Low Water Bridge known as Coney Island. Even though this was Indian Territory, Coney Island in New York was known here as well.
When the Government took possession of the land, where Sulphur Springs was located, the town moved outside the Park boundary. Rock Creek now cut off the people who moved to the West Side from the South Side. It was decided to put a crossing in at that time.
This crossing was put just north of Coney Island near or at the location of today's bridge and called "Coney Island Ford". Please do not confuse this bridge with an automobile dealership in New York.
The ford was not much to begin with. Mostly it was little more than just cutting the banks down enough to get a house across the creek when the town was moving.
Col. Swords, the first superintendent of Platt, built a causeway to aid the public crossing the park. The bed of the crossing began with a mattress of willow branches. The park crews would go down Rock Creek cutting and bundling the branches. They would then lay the mats across the creek and weight them down with small rocks. These mats were then covered with sand and gravel to form the roadbed.
This system worked rather well until it rained. Rock Creek was notorious for quickly flooding after even the slightest storm. Every big rain and subsequent flood would wash out all or parts of the crossing and it would have to be rebuilt again and again.
In 1915 there was finally an attempt to make some permanent improvement on the crossing. In his Annual Report to the Secretary, Supt. Sneed notes the first efforts to build a concrete bridge across Rock Creek. Here are excerpts from his report.
"A cement causeway 16 feet wide and 146 feet in length was built during June, 1915, across Rock Creek at the Coney Island Ford to connect the new Bromide Road with the Travertine Road, (Remember that a new city/park sewer line had just been laid along the banks of Rock Creek between Flower Park and Bromide Springs. This new road was built on top of the sewer line.) so that automobiles could easily ford the stream at this point.
This causeway was heavily reinforced with reinforcing steel, wire fencing and old bridge timbers and a sidewalk two feet wide was tied to the upstream side of the causeway with heavy steel stirrups which constitute the reinforcement to the stone piers to which the sidewalk is tied with pieces of steel.
The sidewalk is also reinforced in the same way as the causeway and altogether there were 330 sacks of cement used in the construction of this improvement.
The length of the sidewalk is 98 feet.
Before putting down the cement floor of this causeway, I had the ford filled with a quantity of good sharp rocks as a foundation and the cement poured into these rocks and after the causeway was completed, I had it rip rapped at both ends to prevent heavy floodwaters from undermining it.
The total cost of the causeway was $440.46.
This causeway had been built only half way across the stream when one of the highest floodwaters (1916) we have had on this creek for 20 years occurred and huge pieces of driftwood floated over it without disturbing the completed portion of the work and since completion of this improvement two other heavy floodwaters have passed over the causeway without having damaged it."
The bridge remained pretty much in this condition until the CCC arrived in 1933 and the bridge was rebuilt. The crossing on Rock Creek had remained relatively unchanged from the time it was built in 1916 until 1933. There was no provisions for the water to pass under the bridge. It was consequently a small dam and was truly a low water bridge.
The wet roadway created a situation where autos were constantly slipping off the bridge into the creek. During the winter of 1932 - 1933, there was an exceptionally rainy season which began to undermine the old structure. In 1933 the CCC built a new bridge with two concrete culverts for water to pass underneath the roadway. The bridge that exists today is basically the same bridge that the CCC built in 1933. There was some minor changes to the roadway edging in the 1970's where the stepping-stone walkways were removed and curbing installed.
© by Dennis Muncrief - 2006