Fort Laramie, Wyoming.
On our way into the Fort Laramie National Historic Site, we came across this sizeable three-span bridge over the North Platte River. Our first view of the bridge was from the north side, with little space to park. We would soon discover a small parking area with some informational plaques that told the story of the bridge. One of the plaques reads in part, “Erected 1875. This bridge was a vital link between Cheyenne, Fort Laramie, and the military outposts, Indian agencies, and gold fields of the Black Hills Dakota region.“
Consisting of two 125-foot (38 m) spans and one 150-foot (46 m) span, the bridge is constructed of wrought iron and native pine. The 12-foot (4 m) roadway carried the typical daily traffic across the North Platte River when the bridge was finally completed in 1876.
The bridge was replaced by a concrete and steel bridge (just visible to the right in the image above) in 1958, and a complete restoration of the original structure provided pedestrian use for the historic bridge in 1969.
The bridge has a total length of 400 feet (122 m) and covers a much larger area than the summer width of the North Platte. No doubt it is as long as it needed to be to handle the widened river during the spring snowmelt.
At some point in the history of the bridge, two large boat-shaped planter boxes sit astride the bridge. There were no markers or other indications of their purpose.
The small parking area features access to a small park and a trailhead that, as you can see from the drone shot, accesses the trail that parallels the southern side of the North Platte.
Wayside markers provide information as you walk along the 1.6-mile (2.6 km) hiking trail. It’s an easy walk on relatively level ground. The trail is a lasso loop that goes from the parking lot at the bridge to the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers and back. The view along the river is shaded by cottonwood and willow trees that grow along the river banks.
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