AUTOR NOTE: I have revised this article to cover the perspective of "bridgehunting by kayak."
On July 30th my kayak buddies and I took to the Delaware River. Water was low but sufficient for paddling (or floating as we are more likely to do). We put-in at the Fish and Boat launch off DeMauro Lane in Narrowsburg, NY. This launch provides an excellent look at the north side of the Narrowsburg Bridge. I recommend you take advantage of this view.
WHAT'S IN A NAME?
The town Narrowsburg earned its name by the squeeze the Delaware River makes as it channels tightly between the mountainsides. The Delaware River has cut a deep gorge at the edge of the Allegheny Plateau. Over many years this trough has deepened by stream and glacial erosion through the weaker shales and siltstones of the backside of the Shawangunk Ridge. Here in Narrowsburg, the rock is stronger and forces the Delaware to choke past the narrow cut. Downstream from the squeeze is an eddy. A fairly sizeable eddy, hence called "Big Eddy." In the summer if you kayak under the bridge you won't feel a fast current even though one might think so with the water getting compressed by the two sides of rock. After passing the bridge you will feel the flow come to a stall as you enter the eddy. It's time to turn around and look back at this beauty of a bridge because the next half mile is reasonably stagnant; and, the next bridge isn't for five miles at Tunsten, NY where an iron railroad bridge crosses.
BRIDGE HISTORY OF THE LOCATION
Narrowsburg's transportation roots began when the Erie Railroad crossed the Delaware River and established a station in the town. While suspension bridges were the rave, the first non-rail bridge built here, and actually the first to cross the Delaware River between New York and Pennsylvania, was a wooden covered bridge. Construction began in 1810 and completed in 1811 by the Narrowsburg Bridge Company. Construction was funded privately with the plan of charging tolls to crossers. The bridge was destroyed by an ice flood in 1832. In the same location, but higher, a new bridge was built that same year, but it was destroyed by a flood 1846. Two years later another bridge was completed—a wooden covered bridge. This hearty bridge survived many floods up to 1899. The third bridge was made of iron which was a more common bridge material at this time. The iron through truss was erected by Oswego Bridge Company in 1899. It was updated in the 1920s. By 1927 no more tolls were collected on this bridge as it became state-owned.
THE CURRENT NARROWSBURG BRIDGE
Dedicated on August 31, 1953, this is the fourth bridge at this location. It was commissioned for $489,674, which was a very respectable price for the time. When construction began, the town was never without a bridge as the old iron bridge was kept open until the new bridge was completed. The old through truss stayed intact for many years even after the new bridge was opened. In fact, I would say it was there until at least 2003 as Frank Dale's book shows a photo with the new bridge and the 1899 bridge behind it. When I saw it in the summer of 2010, the iron bridge was no longer there.
The current bridge is modern, yet "retro." From the boat launch the beautiful arch span is the focal point of the bridge. The bridge's deep forest green color compliments the natural area yet allows the bridge to catch attention. This is form meets function at its best. Even the columns connecting the arch to the stringer have unique vertical openings in the steel—probably to save weight without hindering strength—adding visual interest and a modern, minimalist touch.
When paddling up close to the bridge, I first saw how the metal deck and steel arch rested elegantly on strong, stout concrete abutments and piers. But as the concrete piers rise vertically, they taper as to allow the arch to steal the "show." The riveted steel arch spouts from the eastern piers and connects to the other side. The view from the water makes the bridge look like it grows into the rocky mountain side on the west. but after you pass, you can see how the arch mirrors the east side.
Dale, Frank T. "Bridges Over the Delaware River: A History of Crossings" Piscataway: Rutgers University Press, 2003.
Van Diver, Bradford B. "Roadside Geology of New York" Mountain Press Publishing Company 2003.