The old Highway 54 Bridge, which spanned the Niangua Arm of the lake 2 miles west of Camdenton, was replaced in 2000 by a new structure. The original bridge, an unimposing structure built low across the water, holds a place in lake area history, for it was the first bridge to span the completed Lake of the Ozarks.
The old bridge was designed in 1930. Bagnell Dam was under construction at that time and woodcutters were busy clearing the 160 linear miles of future lake bed. The Missouri Highway Department drew up plans for the bridge based on survey information provided by Stone & Webster Engineering. Stone & Webster was the firm retained by Union Electric to build the dam and develop the yet unnamed "Osage Reservoir" project.
Actual construction of the Highway 54 Bridge took place in 1932-1933. The lake had filled in 1931, thus making the Highway 54 Bridge the second span specifically designed to cross the lake and the first new bridge constructed after the lake filled. (The Niangua Bridge and the Hurricane Deck Bridge, both on Highway 5, would follow within the decade.)
The only modification made to the bridge came in 1939. With a gradual increase in boating traffic, the Highway Department added red and green navigation lights to the underside of the structure.
Photo courtesy Brad Atkinson.
Text © 2000 by Michael Gillespie. All rights reserved.