Day Trips: Bluff Dale Bridge, Bluff Dale

Historic bridge is an engineering masterpiece


Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

The Bluff Dale Bridge over the Paluxy River between Stephenville and Granbury is the oldest bridge of its type in Texas and possibly the oldest in the United States.

If flood waters or neglect don't get it first, the county plans to demolish the sagging structure before it damages the unremarkable, very functional cement bridge next to it.


Photo by Gerald E. McLeod

The historic bridge is covered in vines and tree branches, and its metal deck plates tilt at a precarious angle 28 feet above the shallow river. In 1890, the one-lane bridge was an engineering masterpiece designed and built by Edwin Runyon of Weatherford to span a river ford.

Often referred to as a suspension bridge, the Bluff Dale Bridge is actually a cable-stayed bridge. Although both types of bridges use cables, cable-stayed bridges support the load with towers rather than anchors and the cables are attached directly to the bridge deck.


Barton Creek Bridge, Erath County (Courtesy of Library of Congress)

Cable-stayed bridges became popular after World War II because of lower costs and greater strength and longevity. The Fred Hartman Bridge outside of Houston is the longest cable-stayed bridge in Texas.

According to the Texas Historical Commission, Runyon built at least three cable-stayed bridges for Erath County; two survive and both are abandoned. The other one is the Barton Creek Bridge on Erath County Road 119 outside of Huckabay.

The Bluff Dale Bridge was originally placed over the Paluxy River on what is now U.S. 377. It was moved to CR 149 in 1934 and decommissioned in 1989. The structure was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and was on Preservation Texas' 2009 list of most endangered places. The Erath County commissioner responsible for the bridge did not respond to queries about the bridge's future.


1,584th in a series. Follow “Day Trips & Beyond,” a travel blog, at austinchronicle.com/daily/travel.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Bluff Dale Bridge, Paluxy River, Bluff Dale, Edwin Runyon, cable-stayed bridges, Fred Hartman Bridge, Texas Historical Commission, National Register of Historic Places, Preservation Texas

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