An Old Bridge with A New Purpose

by Cody Berry, Special Collections Assistant

On March 11, 2024, I had the pleasure of attending a historic groundbreaking ceremony with Kari Lapp, our Public Relations Manager, and the library’s new Assistant Director, Stony Evans. Together, we walked down the muddy road to a part of the Saline River that had been the site of a tiny community known as Saline Crossing. In 1815, William S. Lockhart and his family settled there. In 1831, Lockhart operated a post office and a toll bridge there.1 However, we weren’t there that day to honor William Lockhart. 

We were there to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the Old River Bridge which was taken down some time ago in hopes that it would be restored and rebuilt as a walking bridge in its original location at the end of River Street in Benton. This was partly the vision of the late Lynn Moore, who was Mayor of Benton from 1999-2002.2  

Moore’s son Brad was there to give a speech, along with current Mayor Tom Farmer of Benton and two county judges. Current County Judge Matt Brumley opened the ceremony, and he was followed by his predecessor Jeff Arey, who spoke about growing up on the Haskell side of the river and riding his bike across the Old River Bridge as a boy.  

The Old River Bridge’s restoration and repurposing is part of a much larger project to build a 60-mile-long trail from Little Rock, through Saline County, over the bridge and Saline Crossing, to Hot Springs in Garland County. Benton Mayor Tom Farmer said that the Old River Bridge will become “the gateway to the future for us,” referring to the new Southwest Trail project, of which the bridge will be a part at some point.  

The Old River Bridge was completed in 1891 by the Youngstown Bridge Company of Youngstown, Ohio. It is a steel truss bridge that was a beloved landmark even after a truck fell through it in 1974. It sat there for decades until former Benton mayor Lynn Moore and several other dedicated citizens decided to restore the bridge and its historic grounds.3  

Sadly, Lynn Moore passed away before his dream could be realized. However, his dream will come true soon enough with the old bridge having fulfilled its new purpose. The Old River Bridge and this new Southwest Trail project will bring a whole new generation of Arkansas travelers to the state much like the original trail did centuries ago. 

[1] Cody Lynn Berry. “Saline Crossing.” CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas., Date Accessed March 12, 2024.

[2] Mayors of Benton Plaque at Gann Museum.

[3] Cody Lynn Berry. “Old River Bridge.” CALS Encyclopedia of Arkansas.{afdf6a03-88f5-4386-ab5f-7fd7fae43cb6}&action=edit, Date Accessed March 12, 2024.