There are no "swingers" at the party cove. In fact there are very few left anywhere. There's one at Warsaw, but the other two that once were there now are gone.

To what am I referring? Why, the wire suspension bridges of the Osage Valley--the swinging bridges, or "swingers" as they often were called.

(Photo, left: South approach to the Highway 7 swinging bridge at Warsaw. Note the gravel surface; photo taken July 28, 1946.)

Suspension bridges fundamentally were different in appearance and design criteria from the more common pier bridges. The deck platform of a suspension bridge hung from two overhead cables. The weight of the deck and its load transferred horizontally to the far ends of the structure. Given enough vertical elevation, a suspension bridge could span a very wide river without the need for foundation piers in midstream. This was the great advantage of suspension bridges--no obstruction to river traffic and no danger of pier displacement from floods or ice floes. Swinging bridges also were less expensive to build than pier bridges.

Typically, swinging bridges over the Osage sloped from a high bluff on one side to a lower approach fill on the opposite side of the river. The bridge deck itself was arched in addition to the downward slope so that the road over the bridge formed a vertical curve. On some of the bridges the arch was enough that a vehicle entering one end of the bridge could not be seen from the other end.

The first suspension bridge in the Lake Area was built at Warsaw in 1895. It was devised and financed by D.M. Eddy, a Warsaw physician with an interest in bridge design. (Bridges at that time were built by individuals or private companies and operated as toll bridges.) Eddy's construction foreman was Joe Dice, also of Warsaw. Dice and another bridge contractor, Charles Bibb, eventually would build most of the thirty swinging bridges constructed in the region between 1895 and 1937.

(Photo, right: Looking west from one of the Warsaw swingers, July 28, 1946, showing one of the vertical suspender cables. The picture was taken from the front seat of a '38 Dodge. New cars were hard to come by in the immediate post-war years.)

Seven of those bridges once spanned portions of the present-day Lake of the Ozarks.

One was over the Grand Glaize Creek, about where the current Grand Glaize Bridge crosses the lake.

Another was at the mouth of Linn Creek. It was built in 1910 at a cost of $16,000. If you glance at a lake map you will notice that F Highway seems to dead end at Green Bay Terrace (mile marker 31). Before the lake came in the road continued south across the river bottoms then crossed the Osage via this bridge. The south end of the bridge was on Lover's Leap Bluff, where a toll house once stood. The toll keeper kept some of the deck planking loose so he could hear if someone were crossing late at night. Like most of the swingers over the Osage, the Linn Creek bridge had to be removed to make way for the lake. In 1931 Union Electric bought the bridge for $26,000. Engineers then cut the bridge supports and allowed the wire cables and steel towers to fall into the filling lake. During World War Two the towers and cables were lifted from the lake bottom and sold for scrap.

The next bridge upriver was the Sagrada Bridge, built in 1907-08. It crossed the Osage between mile markers 70 and 71. It connected present-day highways T and FF.

In 1899 a farmer named Bell owned and cultivated a tract of land in the Osage River known as Williams Island (mile marker 74). Normally the river was shoal there and Bell had no problem in fording the stream to reach his field on the island. But high water occasionally kept him from getting his implements over to the island, so Bell paid to have a swinging bridge built from the south shore to his island. It ended at the island and did not cross the main channel of the Osage. It was known as the Bell Island Bridge.

Three swinging bridges once spanned the Osage at Warsaw. One, known as the Upper Bridge--originally built in 1904--still stands although it has undergone several rebuilds. It is no longer open to traffic.

(Photo, above: One of the Warsaw swingers. The photo clearly shows the steel support towers. Photo courtesy Brad Atkinson.)

Two more swingers are still in use over the Grand Glaize Creek near Brumley.

Swinging bridges did swing, or at least sway. (Horizontal cables running from the bridge deck to the shore dampened the worst of the sway.) Under a heavy load the plank decks sometimes rolled upward ahead of the vehicle like a bow wave moving ahead of a boat. If you stopped your vehicle on a swinger you could feel the up and down oscillation of the deck. Over the years some decks collapsed, but none of the main supporting cables ever broke.


© 2002 by Michael Gillespie. All rights reserved.