I have a strange hobby. I guess I’ve always been interested in abandoned things – bridges, railways, roadways, vehicles, etc. Within recent years I’ve taken up a hobby that I call “Bridge Hunting”.
About Bridge Hunting
Everywhere you go, you see – and most likely travel over/under – bridges. Many of these are new or have been constructed within the past 50 years or so – and those are great – but the ones I’m interested in are the ones that are abandoned. The ones that have been retired. The ones that have been forgotten about.
Each bridge tells a story. Each one was once used to various degrees. Some were used for foot traffic, some carried horses and carriages, some carried other vehicles, and some carried trains. They come in all shapes and sizes, and no two bridges are exactly alike – if for no other reason that they are each located in a unique location that carried unique passengers to their destinations.
The art of “bridge hunting” is essentially about finding and photographing these rare finds before they are “lost”. “Lost” is the term used for bridges that have been either washed away by a natural event, or torn down, or replaced.
Essentially, the “hunt” begins by doing research on a potentially abandoned bridge. I do my research via various web sites, but what I love to do most is find these bridges via Google Earth. You can typically locate these by following abandoned railways (easy to spot on Google Earth if you zoom out enough). Just follow the railway until it reaches some water – there you’ll find a bridge. Or, conversely, you can follow the water paths until you find a bridge.
This page is devoted to the pictures I personally take of these bridges. There are other sites such as http://bridgehunter.com/ that are great for people like me who like to “hunt” for bridges.
The word “hunt” is a bit of a misnomer, as nothing is harmed during this process. On the contrary, as is with all public parks, the goal is to “take only pictures and leave only footprints”. I am very careful to not disturb the state of the bridge or its surroundings, and I also pay close attention to make sure I don’t trespass or violate people’s privacy.
The Anatomy of a Bridge Hunt
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about my “bridge hunting” hobby. A lot of people have wondered how I find these bridges. Well, these are the top ways:
- A bridge hunting web site. My favorite is this: http://bridgehunter.com. It has thousands of bridges throughout the U.S. that are listed and categorized. Some are still standing, some are not (called “lost” bridges), some are abandoned or derelict. Some have pictures, some don’t. Some have map coordinates, some don’t. This is probably the easiest way to find a cool bridge.
- Google Maps. Using Google Maps in conjunction with the satellite view, street view, and Google Earth, you can easily spot bridges. One way is to follow a river, ditch, stream, etc. Inevitably you’ll find a bridge. Another way is to follow the roads – both regular roads and rail roads – and inevitably you’ll find a bridge. One of my favorite ways is to find abandoned railways. These almost always have the coolest of abandoned bridges.
- Drive by’s. I’ve happened upon some pretty cool bridges just by driving by them. Or, driving by a road/path/rail crossing where you know there must be a bridge somewhere. Recently I happened to look off a road I was traveling on and saw a “Bridge Closed” sign. Boom. Had to go there 🙂
- Word of mouth. Sometimes people will tell me about bridges they’ve seen that are cool.
Let’s take a look at the first way: a bridge hunting site. For this example, we’ll use a bridge that I’ll be going to visit in Michigan in a few weeks (weather permitting, of course). Here is a page from bridgehunter.com that shows some information on a bridge that was built in 1930 and is now abandoned:
Notice that there are no pictures, and no map. Perfect. That means that this is a hidden gem waiting to be found. The page describes the bridge and the location, so bringing up Google Maps gives us an idea of where it is. Notice the following picture. I’ve bookmarked the road that leads to the bridge. My Google Maps is full of thousands of bookmarks like this. Here is a zoomed-out view of the map:
Notice how James Road goes south, just below my bookmark. You can see where James Road used to go over Stoney Creek and attach to South Stoney Creek Road. The map shows Boes Drain too. Can you see the bridge? Well… from this far away, it’s hard. Let’s zoom in:
Look at the above picture. Look to the right of the words Boes Drain. There’s the bridge. You can recognize the concrete man-made structure as it stands out from the trees around it. It also looks like it has a fair bit of greenery on top of it. I can’t wait to take close-up pictures 🙂
Now let’s take another way to find a bridge: Google Maps. Notice the picture below. This is a map of I-69 near Anderson, Indiana:
Notice the diagonal line with the bookmark on it. This is where I found a bridge. The diagonal line is an abandoned railway system and they are easy to spot on Google Maps. Railways used to be the primary way to go from city to city, so it’s easy to use a tool like Google Maps to find these – they stick out because they’re usually straight lines surrounded by a thin layer of trees. Zooming into the map, you can see the topography a little better:
Notice on the left where it says “Sly Fork”. That’s the small stream that the water goes over. To the right, you see I-69. Then you see S 450 E, where I parked my car to enter the railway system. The railway must have still been in operation when I-69 was built, as they built a bridge over the railway. So, after parking my car, I went under I-69 and proceeded towards the bridge. Here’s a closeup from Google Maps:
This particular bridge was the hardest one I have ever tried to get to. This is because it was a ways away from the entry point (I-69), and the rail system was completely covered in thick, heavy brush… with a ton of downed trees in the way. So, it took almost an hour to get to the bridge. But it was worth it. Here is a picture of what I saw once I got there:
Is that awesome or what?
I’m still figuring out WordPress, and I’ve got a lot of other things to do this year ahead of many more bridge hunts. However, I will promise to set up a WordPress gallery and start to post some of my bridge pictures I’ve collected over the years. Depending on how much time I have this summer/fall, I may go do some more bridge hunts. Let me know if you’d like to join me!
So… what strange hobbies do you have?