Hernando de Soto Commemorative Bridge

The first road trip of 2014 finally arrived, and while most of it was not in Mississippi, I did manage a short little drive from Arkansas to home in Lafayette County, and a first for me: crossing the Mississippi River bridge at Helena, Arkansas.

The Arkansas-Mississippi Bridge Commission was formed in 1950 with the purpose

…to plan, construct, maintain and operate a bridge and approaches thereto across the Mississippi River at or near Helena, Arkansas and Friars Point, Mississippi, at a point deemed by the commission as most suitable to the interests of the citizens of the States of Arkansas and Mississippi in accordance with the provisions of an act of the Seventy-Ninth Congress, Second Session, of the United States entitled “The General Bridge Act of 1946.” (Laws, 1950, ch. 393, retrieved from PublicResource.Org)

The bridge record (Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department) indicates the bridge plans were begun in February 1956.  The bridge construction was begun in 1958 and completed in 1961, at a cost of $2,682,901.13, by the Kansas City Bridge Company and Guy H. James Construction Company, with a truss length of 3,110’0″.  The ASHTD Historic Bridge Inventory 1987-2010 described the bridge as Warren thru truss, but other sources differ as to whether it is continuous or cantilever.  Bridge experts, which is it?

Note: Continuous truss extends without hinges or joints across 3 or more spans; cantilever structural members project beyond the supporting column with a counterbalanced support at one end (Ohio Department of Transportation, bridge definitions).

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Categories: Bridges

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14 replies

  1. Welcome back, Suzassippi!

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  2. Great slide show! The bridge seems to go on forever.

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  3. There used to be a great catfish restaurant right before you crossed the bridge on the left. We ate there on the way to Shawnee, OK for a barrel race in 1998. Several years later my mom and dad went back through on the way to Hot Springs, AR for a vacation. The same people owned it and they remembered us!

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  4. Nice photos, I feel like I crossed the bridge!

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  5. Uh, y’all, the Hernando DeSoto Bridge crosses the river between Arkansas and Tennessee. The featured bridge is the Helena Bridge, crossing between Arkansas and Mississippi.

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    • You are correct but the title references the Hernando DeSoto Commemorative Bridge, which is a location where DeSoto likely crossed the Mississippi River. Not a whole lot about it on the web but here is an image of the magnolia marker https://www.flickr.com/photos/sonypic/6749108033/in/set-72157628997601083

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      • My source for the name of the bridge is below:

        2013 Mississippi Code
        Title 65 – HIGHWAYS, BRIDGES AND FERRIES
        Chapter 3 – STATE HIGHWAY SYSTEM
        SPECIAL DESIGNATIONS OF PORTIONS OF HIGHWAY SYSTEM AND BRIDGES
        § 65-3-71.18 – “Hernando de Soto Commemorative Bridge” designated

        Universal Citation: MS Code § 65-3-71.18 (2013)
        From and after June 18, 1991, the Mississippi River Bridge on U.S. Highway 49 near Lula, Mississippi, from its easternmost point westward to the Arkansas state line, shall be named and designated the “Hernando de Soto Commemorative Bridge” in recognition, observation and commemoration of Spanish Explorer Hernando de Soto who discovered the Mississippi River on May 8, 1541, and subsequently crossed the river on June 18, 1541.

        Source: law.justia.com

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        • I think 1991 was the same date on the historical marker. I wonder since this is Mississippi Code, does Arkansas recognize the bridge with a different name? Very little online refers to it as the Hernando de Soto Commemorative Bridge.

          Arkansas DOT has made Arkansas Highway Magazine a publication produced by AHTD from 1924 to 2012 available for all to see online. The January 1961 issue has some great images of the bridge under construction.

          http://www.arkansashighways.com/historic_bridge/Early%20Arkansas%20Highway%20Magazines/1960-69%20Volumes%208-15%20pdfs/Volume%209%20%E2%80%93%201961/Vol.%209,%20January%201961,%20No.%201.pdf

          I think these magazines will be a great resource for us Mississippians to mine for information about our state.

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        • The state line (according to google maps) is in the middle of the Mississippi River, so only half the bridge is “the Hernando de Soto Commemorative Bridge.”

          I don’t know if Arkansas has officially named the bridge but:
          The 1961 Arkansas Highways publication Thomas found calls the bridge “The Helena Bridge.”

          A 1973/1979 publication, _Historic Helena-West Helena Arkansas_calls it “the Helena Bridge over the Mississippi River.” Most Arkansans think of it as the “Helena Bridge.” What do Mississippians call it?

          We don’t know de Soto’s exact route, but the best reconstruction by archaeologist Charles Hudson puts the route north of Helena/Lula…in between the two de Soto bridges.

          https://www.uark.edu/campus-resources/archinfo/Expedition%20of%20Hernando%20de%20Soto.pdf

          Naming the US 49 bridge after de Soto is a little strange, since there is already a bridge named after him just 53 miles up river. Looks like another chapter in the annals of the de Soto nuttery.

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          • My father’s family from Arkansas and they refer to it as Helena Bridge, so I just always thought it was a state thing depending which direction you headed. This very interesting. I always crossed into Arkansas at Lake Village bridge, which I di not know name of, not been across it since 1994. My main relatives are in Monticello.

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