Historic link across the North Platte river
If you have traveled north out of Sutherland, you may have encountered an interesting one-lane bridge.
We caught up with local historian Ken Main to talk about the history of the bridge. "Ranchers and people who lived north of Sutherland in the early 1900's at one time only had a wooden bridge to cross. It was located about a mile east of here," Main said. Flooding issues always made the potential of not being able to cross the bridge a real possibility. If the bridge was not passable, that cut off ranchers in the northwest corner of Lincoln County from getting to an important shipping point on the other side of the river. "The ranchers went to county commissioners to get a different bridge. In 1910, the State Highway Bridge Building Project started. The people in the Birdwood district got together and said hey, we can petition the state to pay for half of the bridge ourselves," Main said. The state paid for half of the bridge under the project, and the residents of the Birdwood district and Sutherland decided to pay for the other half. The residents paid taxes for the building project, and then they paid taxes for the other half to get it built, thus getting taxed twice in a sense. It was that important to people in the area.
"Bridge construction started in the spring of 1914, and in December of 1915 it was open. It allowed anyone from the Northwest part of Lincoln County to get supplies, and maybe bring livestock to sell," Main said. "The bridge is unique, because it's the only bridge to my knowledge in the state of Nebraska that was built in that era, that is still in it's original form. It's unique because the taxpayers of this small section of Lincoln county paid for half of it out of their own pockets."
A new bridge has been planned in the area for years. Many people like Ken Main would like the old north bridge saved and perhaps turned into walking trail. We talked with Lincoln County Commission Chair Joe Hewgley about the future of the old bridge. "It's my understanding that keeping the old bridge would cause some hydraulic concerns downstream to a potential new bridge," Hewgley said. "Although it would be nice to save the old bridge for historical reasons, the chances are likely it won't happen." Additionally, Hewgley tells us that while there have been plans to build a new bridge, the flooding in our state in March has made the future of the new bridge uncertain at this time.