Austin and its environment are home to many famous or historic bridges, many of which date back to the late 19th century. Some are tourist draws, while others span quiet rivers and streams. Fans of bridge history, architecture and design will enjoy uncovering these treasures in the Austin area.
Congress Avenue Bridge
Crossing Lady Bird Lake in central Austin, Congress Avenue bridge offers fantastic views of downtown Austin. As an interesting bonus, it is residence to the most massive urban bat colony in the United States. From mid-March through November, vacationers and locals alike visit the bridge at dusk to look at the look of the bats flying out for their evening meal. A way to view both the bridge and its inhabitants is taking a sunset cruise.
Percy V. Pennybacker Bridge
The Pennybacker Bridge opened in 1982. The bridge crosses Lake Austin to attach the North and South Loop 360 Highway and is frequently referred to as the 360 Bridge. The arched weathering steel bridge carries vehicles, bikes and people on foot. The bridge spans a lake, formed when the Colorado River was dammed. A public landing for boats is located under the southerly side of the bridge, making it a favored spot for land and water enthusiasts. Built in the Through Arch style, it's got a weathered patina which fuses in well with the surrounding natural setting. No part of the bridge touches the water, which lies a hundred feet below the bridge deck. This allows for clear passage for watercraft under the bridge. Visitors can enjoy the view from the bridge, and then enjoy a canoe trip on Lake Austin.
Faust Street Bridge
Located in New Braunfels, the Faust Street Bridge is considered one of the most vital historic bridges in both Austin and Texas. Built in 1887, the bridge an example of one of the earliest built, longest and most complex of the truss-type Austin bridges. Spanning the Guadalupe River, the bridge is open only to cycle and pedestrian traffic since being damaged by fire in 1978. The bridge is sited in the center of Austin and lets visitors to bike or slow mooch over the Guadalupe River. Built out of wrought iron, the bridge is now on the National Historic Register. Its marker notes that this was the 1st permanent “toll-free” structures to cross a major waterway. Bridge fans find the bridge to be one of the very finest examples Whipple Truss engineering. Only briefly popular, it is difficult to find existing examples of the design. The unique construction is a testimonial to its longevity and historical significance.
Bryant Station Bridge
In Austin, the Bryant Station Bridge is one of two surviving “camelback through truss” bridges. Found in Milam County, this bridge crosses the Little River nearby the old Bryant Station trading post. Even though the bridge is no longer in use, the Bryant Station Bridge is one of the Austin bridges worth a trip. Built in 1909, it was u to carry commodities across the Little River. By the mid-1930s, Bryant Station was virtually non-existent and is now a ghost town. The easy design of the bridge is a result of the time it was built and gives visitors an immediate feel for the time. It can be difficult to find since it is off a rural road, but it is really worth the adventure. The few remains of Bryant Station are the cemetary, the bridge and the city marker. While closed to all traffic, visitors can explore the remains to get a glance of life within a 1800’s century trading post.
Regency Bridge and Beveridge Bridge
Located in San Saba, the Regency Bridge is the only suspension bridge in Texas that is open to automobile traffic. Built in 1939, it is a single lane bridge with a wood deck. While traffic is light, visitors need to remain aware that it is in use. The bridges are on the National Historic Register. People that live in the area suggest that you picnic by the bridge, but there's no official picnic area. The Beveridge Bridge is an iron suspension bridge and is down stream from the Regency. It was open to automobile traffic until 2004 and is now open for pedestrians to stroll across and take in awesome views of the San Saba River and the surrounding country. The bridges offer clear view and pleasant winds from the city to a lovely park.
Rachel Rosen has had an interested in Austin bridges and architecture for a few years. Rosen has penned editorial pieces and op-eds for many different web publications. For the details about Austin landmarks, please visit her site here.