Rating:
4 votes

Winkley Bridge

Photos 

General View Of Cable Suspension Bridge, Looking Northwest

Photo taken July 1988 by Michael Swanda for the Historic American Engineering Record

View photos at Library of Congress

BH Photo #129649

Map 

Facts 

Overview
Lost swinging bridge over Little Red River on AR 110 east of Heber Springs
Location
Cleburne County, Arkansas
Status
Collapsed
History
Built 1912 by contractor Harry Churchill. Closed to vehicular traffic in 1972; collapsed Oct. 28, 1989, killing five pedestrians.
Builder
- Harry Churchill (Contractor)
Design
Wire suspension
Dimensions
Length of largest span: 450.0 ft.
Total length: 550.0 ft.
Deck width: 10.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+35.49013, -91.97453   (decimal degrees)
35°29'24" N, 91°58'28" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/593015/3927882 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
West Pangburn
Inventory numbers
NRHP 84000020 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 10284 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • January 11, 2009: New photo from David Backlin
  • December 6, 2008: New photos from James Baughn

Sources 

Comments 

Winkley Bridge
Posted October 19, 2018, by Denise L Ford (niseypoo1931 [at] gmail [dot] com)

My parents were both born and raised in Cleburne County and my Grandma lived in Heber Springs on Hwy 110. From 1965 to 1972 we made several trips from Fresno California in our 1965 Chevy Impala.I remember several times Daddy would drive across that one lane bridge really fast, and as soon as we got to the other side he'd flip a U-turn and we would watch that thing swing back and forth! It was so exciting! Of coarse my mom made Daddy pull the car over so she could get out. But my sister and I would scream and giggle the whole time! I really miss Daddy...great memories.

Winkley Bridge
Posted June 20, 2011, by Jason (yearsmith [at] bigstring [dot] com)

My parents, and one of my uncles were on the rescue, and recovery crew sent up from Letona. All 3 were Firefighter/EMTs. The scene still haunts them to this day.

I personally don't care what anyone else says. That bridge was destroyed by careless fools who shouldn't have been on it in the first place.

Winkley Bridge
Posted December 18, 2010, by Patricia Hoehle (hoehlepag29 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I have been going through my late mother's picture albums from when she was youngster in Trumann, Ark. She was born in 1899. In the album are several photos of the "Winkley Swinging Bridge" as noted in her handwriting. So I "googled" the bridge to see its history. What a story, with such a sad ending. I'll place some historical notes with the photos so that my children (and now great-grands) will have the complete story. Thanks to all who contributed.

Winkley Bridge photos !
Posted October 14, 2009, by Ervin hoffmeister (ervinhoff3 [at] suddenlink [dot] net)

The post from Jerry Hayes . I have crossed this Bridge 100's of times . Fished off of it .Even photographed it .

20 Years may have passed but The Main file Photo and Photo's under HAER tab are correct!!

There were no holes big enough for even A dog to fall through. Under each tower the expansion gap was not even As big AS the deck boards maby 1-2 inches wide.

Yes I can still smell the crisowood the bridge was made out of.

When I was A little boy this bridge did seem huge and that it might swallow me but as I got older I relised this just was not possible.

Yes It Was A Big Beautiful sight. Even now I still see it As it was 20 years ago.

Winkley Bridge
Posted May 19, 2009, by Mike White (mike_white [at] swn [dot] com)

I was looking for photos of the bridge collaspe. Could anyone help me out?

Winkley Bridge
Posted March 21, 2009, by Dove (Dove5876 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

One of my relatives died in the fall- the youngest....trapped between the bridge and the muddy bank.....It was a trying time for our family, to say the least...Especially horrific was seeing the childs arm hanging off a stretcher on national news.....callous

Winkley Bridge
Posted January 22, 2009, by Rich Hamm (rich [at] lakeviewchurch [dot] cc)

I was on the bridge when it collapsed. I was 10 years old at the time, and we were the church group from Tennessee, there was only about 15 of us. All 12 years old and under except our group leaders. We had been on a camping trip and were on our way home.

This is what I remember:

I was only about half way when the bridge started swinging, I don't recall it being violent however, I would have ran off had it been. I remember looking over the side of the bridge at the water and the next thing I knew I was on my back half on the bank and half in the water. There was dust and a lot of screaming. I was lucky that I only had a dislocated hip and some other minor injuries. No one from our group died, however we had several major injuries.

I am troubled at some of the post about this unfortunate tragedy. Some calling it vandalism. There actually was a couple of law suites, I was not apart of any of that. It was just a group having fun that took a turn to tragedy. The victims and survivors aren't to blame, it was a combination of events that no one group is singularly responsible for.

It was a beautiful site. I haven't been back since that day! My heart goes out to the victims families.

Winkley Bridge
Posted May 18, 2008, by Jerry Hayes and Shane Nelson (blazingguns69 [at] aol [dot] com Jhayes@sbcglobal [dot] net)

Jerry and I were researching the local bridges when we noticed that the photos in this file are not accurate. We are unable to tell which bridge is in on the main file, but the second photo shown after clicking on the gallery is the actual bridge that is being refered to in the information contained.

Winkley Bridge
Posted April 13, 2008, by Chris Cockrell (xtopher123 [at] hotmail [dot] com)

I went to the Heber Springs school system K through 12. I spent about 6 years growing up about 1/4 mile from this bridge. I loved it. Great view, and it would always sway a bit when you walked on it or rode a bicycle across. I'd probably cross it 5 times a day in the summer. Get a sandwich at the diner, watching the trout, visit the folks at the dock (not a lot to do there). I can assure you this bridge was NOT maintained after a certain date. The structure was sound, but the decking had holes a man could fall through, and it creaked continually. It was always a bit of a nervous thrill to cross it, and you had to know where the holes were if you were on a bicycle. And I recall it had a smell about it...very tar-ish.

The bridge failed because a lot of people were actively trying to swing the bridge. "out of town" church group as I recall. I think it was out of novelty and sheer lack of knowledge. Even I and a few friends had swung the bridge before (you could do this by putting people on either side and rhytmically throwing your weight against the guard rails)but once it got going more than 12 inches or so it would scare the bejesus out of you. I knew how rickety the thing was and had a healthy respect for it, and this was before it was in such disrepair. I remember after hearing about it in college I thought "they were doing WHAT!!!!??? We had a good Physics teacher (Mr. Storm) and had seen footage of suspension bridges failing due to oscillation...not pretty. I'm suprised more people were not killed. I don't think the reports of people seeing the bottom of the bridge are exaggerated...even in a big wind you could sometimes see the underside of the decking from the concrete bridge, and this was more than anyone had seen as far as it oscillating. I suppose no lawsuits occurred because of the local nature of it all and the county couldn't reasonably forsee people actively endangering themselves in this manner.

My heart goes out to the friends and family that were killed or injured, but I'm afraid Darwin reared his ugly head on this one, and took a historical landmark with him. It seems like I recall a "cross at your own risk" sign, but I can't swear to it. I know I have photos of the bridge somewhere, if anyone likes, I can dig them up.

Winkley Bridge
Posted October 9, 2007, by Ervin Hoffmeister III (ervinhoff3 [at] suddenlink [dot] net)

I remember this old bridge real good . It Was A buteful sight untill the colaps . My father was passing by at the time of the church groups visit. He said he could not belve it you Actualy could see the entire middle bottom from the new highway bridge. He said the bottom was center the drivers side widow on his s10 pickup. he almost got to Wilburn when the call came in the Winkley bridge had colapsed. This was sutch A shame just pure Vandilism of A historic place. We travled back up there just 4 Days after it fell . I took 3 rolls of film photographing the distruction . The Steel cables only the top 3 rows showed any rust the others still sparkeled new .The old wooden deck just the top layer like A pice of construction paper was detorated. The center looked brand new. The tower on the boat dock side where it colapsed first looked like A tornado had twisted it .The stress fractures still sparkled where the steel had stretched to it limits. The deck support bolts and steel suports were just barely rusted .If this bridge would have underwent A light sand blast it would have looked new Again . I always remember the comunity kept it well maintained if A bord was loose in just A matter of days it was fixed. Remember one word could have saved them and this pice of history the word STOP!!! But nobody said it and now this sight has los its beauty and is A place of Morning for those Who died !

Remember the victims always so this will never happen Again.

Winkley Bridge
Posted June 13, 2007, by Ex-Officer Lawrence Lyons, Heber Springs Police Dept. and Cleburne County Search and Resque Diver (LLyons20019 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I have read several posts on the bridge collapse in 1989 and none have quite told the whole story, so here goes.

The bridge was limited to foot traffic and was used mainly to view Sugar Loaf Mountain and the trout in the river. The bridge had been the subject of countless photo's and paintings and was truly a lovely sight to see. You could watch the trout in the river and the fly fishermen as they worked their rods in the water just west of the bridge.

It was a clear fall day and a church group was enjoying the day and the river, when aprox. fifty young adults and children ventured out on the bridge, bringing the total number to aprox. sixty to seventy people. Some of the group started attempting to get the bridge to sway, not in a up and down motion, but a swinging from side to side. Other people not associated with the group, fled the bridge as well as some of the younger church group members. People traveling on the Hwy. bridge to the east of the old bridge, stated that the bridge was swinging side to side in such a violent manner, that they could see the under side of the bridge as it swung back and forth.

This intense swinging motion went on for sometime, untill the bridge cables, which were constructed of bundles of solid steel wire, finaly gave way on one side of the bridge tower. This caused one side of the bridge to drop, dumping the remaining people into the river. The strain was to much for the bridge towers to hold and one twisted and caused the other side of the bridge to give way, droping the entire span onto the people in the river. The five that were killed were all traped by the bridge's side rails and drowned or were killed by blunt trama. I personaly recovered two of the victims from the north end of the bridge and I will never forget their faces as long as I live. All of the deaths occured at either end of the bridge and not in the middle section, which was higher in the water allowing victims to escape.

Winkley Bridge
Posted February 12, 2007, by Beth (edenton [at] gmail [dot] com)

My family and I were regular visitors to the Swinging Bridge both before and after it's collapse in 1989. Cleburne County in the late 80s was not all that exciting a place - so whenever we went to visit our grandparents there, we'd drive out and take some photos, and sometimes eat at the cafe.

While I feel sorry for the students who died at the bridge, and have sympathy for their friends and families, the bridge's destruction was a senseless act of vandalism. I was eleven in 1989, but even then I was cognizant of not only the respect that historical places ought to be treated with, but also the common sense one uses around antiques!

Winkley Bridge
Posted September 16, 2006, by Lawrence Lyons (LLyons20019 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Does anyone know of a web-site where one could locate photos of the rescue effort when the bridge collasped.

I was working for the police dept. at the time and was on the dive team.

Winkley Bridge
Posted September 7, 2006, by Chaz Birdsong (chazmedic [at] yahoo [dot] com)

I crossed the bridge several times as a kid. My parents remember driving across it for years before it closed. My mother always said that the bridge terrified her when they drove across it.

It was believed that the collapse occured due to a lateral (outward) swinging of the bridge as opposed to the "normal" end to end swinging. This could have been possible due to occupant load and/or wind action.

My uncle participated in the rescue operation. He used a chain saw to cut holes into the decking. His said that the wood inside looked good and that the cables were rusty only on the outside. From 1 inch in, the cables were shiny.

Winkley Bridge
Posted May 5, 2006, by marc

I have crossed that bridge several times as a kid. I'm 31 now so the bridge had been closed to traffic several years before that. The only thing left is the concrete pillars the cables were bolted to. My father said when he was a kid that the school bus would stop short of the bridge. They would have to walk across. Once across the bus would drive across. they would load up and on the way to school they would go! I hated it for everyone the day it collapsed. The times i was there the water was only about 3 to 4 feet deep. I would imagine that the log ties used for the flooring caused a lot of the injurys and deaths along with the fall to shallow water.

Winkley Bridge
Posted March 13, 2006, by Anonymous

"On October 28, 1989, the Swinging Bridge collapsed and fell into the Little Red River, when approximately forty people were on the bridge, swinging it from side to side. Five people were killed and many others were injured."

When I was in the military, they had us walk across bridges break-step rather than march in lock-step across them so as to NOT impart a rhythmic load on the bridge. Apparently this is why.

Once when I was in Chicago at the Lake-Front Air and Water Show, there were hunbdreds of thousands of people crossing the pedestrian bridges over Lake Shore Drive and this particular bridge was sagging and swaying under the load. My niece and nephew and me went an alternate route....but as it turned out, nothing happened to any of the bridges that day. However, there was a tunnel running under LSD not far down the road. It's always better to be safe than sorry.....well worth the time to err on the side of caution and avoid mass hysteria scenarios.

Winkley Bridge
Posted March 13, 2006, by Anonymous

"On October 28, 1989, the Swinging Bridge collapsed and fell into the Little Red River, when approximately forty people were on the bridge, swinging it from side to side. Five people were killed and many others were injured."

When I was in the military, they had us walk across bridges break-step rather than march in lock-step across them so as to NOT impart a rhythmic load on the bridge. Apparently this is why.

Once when I was in Chicago at the Lake-Front Air and Water Show, there were hunbdreds of thousands of people crossing the pedestrian bridges over Lake Shore Drive and this particular bridge was sagging and swaying under the load. My niece and nephew and me went an alternate route....but as it turned out, nothing happened to any of the bridges that day. However, there was a tunnel running under LSD not far down the road. It's always better to be safe than sorry.....well worth the time to err on the side of caution and avoid mass hysteria scenarios.

Winkley Bridge
Posted March 13, 2006, by Anonymous

In 1982, the local newspapers reported the results of tests conducted by engineers in response to Quorum Court concerns that the bridge was deteriorating. The engineers reported that the bridge was sturdy, capable of supporting pedestrian traffic for another 50 to 100 years, and that the interior of the cables was shiny and rust free. Although the engineers recommended ultrasound testing on the bridge cables and application of a protective coating on the cables to prevent further rusting, the Quorum Court initiated no further tests or treatment.

On October 28, 1989, the Swinging Bridge collapsed and fell into the Little Red River, when approximately forty people were on the bridge, swinging it from side to side. Five people were killed and many others were injured.

Winkley Bridge
Posted January 12, 2006, by Judith Morrison (waterbabies49 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

The people that died on this bridge some were very close friends of mine. We all went to church together and that year I didn't go the the campmeeting in Prim, because my mom didn't allow me too. I was just a minor at the time and that effected all of us.

The family's was there and so were some other people and when it went down the people that didn't have association with the church people just stood on the bank and took pictures instead of helping the victims in the water.

I lost a very dear friend of mine and I am so thankful he lived his life for the Lord as did the others. If anyone was ever ready to pass on it was them.

This is just to say God bless them and their family's to this day. I miss my friend dearly but I would rather he be in Heaven then here. We may not understand why but there is always a reason that things happen.

We can't change what happened but at least we can say we loved them all.

God bless everyone and good will to all.

Thank you for your time. Sincerely Judith Morrison