The Colorado River Bridge is a 2-part, steel truss and concrete highway bridge crossing the Colorado River on a north-south axis. It consists of two Camelback Parkerthrough truss sections, resting on large concrete pylons, and connected on the north and south by single concrete sections with concrete curbs and pre-cast concrete guard rails. The bridge is accessed along Richmond Road (Old U.S. Highway 59) which runs roughly two blocks west of the central business district.
The Colorado River Bridge is a 2-part, steel truss and concrete highway bridge crossing the Colorado on a north south axis. It consists of two Camelback Parker-through truss sections. Each of the two sections is constructed of eight panels. Short approaches to the truss sections are along concrete decking with concrete curbs and pre-cast concrete guard rails. large concrete pylons support the bridge with the largest pylon being approximately in the center of the Colorado River.
The bridge is on Richmond Road or Old U.S. Highway 59 which runs roughly two blocks west of the central business district and five blocks east of the railroad line. The two lane road bed is covered in asphalt paving. The trusses are in good condition while the concrete approaches vary in quality.
The bridge is entered directly from the northern river bank and extends for some distance over rolling river bottom on the southern end. Some vegetation has grown under the bridge and along its approaches. The bridge is a major visual landmark of the community and perhaps the tallest structure in the community.
The Colorado River Bridge (1930) at the 300 block of South Richmond is one of two historic bridges remaining over the Colorado River at Wharton. It is significant for its role in opening up Wharton to vehicular traffic during its transition from rail to auto and truck access. The bridge retains its integrity and serves as a major visual landmark in the community. It is nominated under Criterion A in the area of transportation and associated with the context: Community Development in Wharton, Texas, 1875-1942.
The Colorado River Bridge was constructed by the Austin Bridge Company, a Dallas-based firm, that built bridges throughout the state in the early 20th century. The firm was one of the most successful bridge contractors in Texas at the time.
In 1929 the Texas Highway Department hired the company to build a bridge across the Colorado River at Wharton. A semi-monthly Company publication, The Span, wrote on July 3, 1929. "The Wharton job is the biggest job taken so far this year, as it will run nearly a quarter million dollars. The two main piers are to be sunk by the pneumatic process and will be subcontracted to the Randolph Construction Company of Kansas City" (Miller 1974: 10). A distinguishing feature of the Colorado River Bridge designed by G.G. Wickline, bridge engineer, Gib Gilchrist, state engineer, and J.M. Nagle, resident engineer, includes the double Camelback Parker-through trusses. The Wharton bridge was highly regarded by the firm because a rendering of the bridge was used for many years on the company's checks.
Throughout Wharton's history, the Colorado River played an important role in the community's development. The river was a determining factor in the town's founding, as it was considered possible means of transporting goods to and from Wharton. However, the Colorado River, like most Texas waterways, was not conducive to shipping and few successful business operations were able to exploit this natural resource.
The Colorado River instead became something of a hindrance to Wharton because of the periodic flooding and because it proved to be a physical barrier that impeded transportation to the south which limited Wharton's trade territory. A ferry provided a means of transporting both goods and people across the river but land on the south bank and beyond remained relatively isolated and inaccessible to Wharton.
In 1893, county commissioners rectified the situation when they funded the construction of an iron bridge across the Colorado River at present day Sunset Street. The opening of the bridge greatly facilitated local trade and enabled Wharton's trade territory and road network to expand.
The 1893 bridge was used until 1930 when the Austin Bridge Company erected this one a few blocks east along Richmond Road. Although not the first bridge to cross the Colorado River at Wharton, it is a symbol of the developing technology that contributed to the development of Wharton by allowing vehicular access to the town.
The bridge remains in use as the north to south lane of U.S. 59. It is a significant visual landmark of Wharton and retains its integrity.