Skip to main content

Bridge Monday; Old US 80 on the Gillespie Dam Bridge

Back in 2012 I visited the Gillespie Dam Bridge located southwest of Phoenix in rural Maricopa County along the Gila River.


The Gillespie Dam Bridge is a truss bridge located directly south of the failed 1921 Gillespie Dam on the Gila River.  The Gillespie Dam Bridge was completed in August of 1927 and was part of early US Route 80.  The Gillespie Dam Bridge is 1,662 feet long, has a road deck 25 feet wide, has 9 spans, and 8 pilings in the Gila River Bed.  The Gillespie Dam Bridge saw service on US Route 80 until the highway was shifted eastward in 1956 to the current Arizona State Route 85 corridor.

The Gillespie Dam Bridge actually survived a breach of it's namesake dam.  The Gillespie Dam is a 1,700 foot wide concrete arch structure which was completed in 1921 as stated above.  The Gillespie Dam was originally designed for cars to travel over, but with the spill-over design it meant that it couldn't be crossed when the reservoir topped out.  The Gillespie Dam was part of the original alignment of US Route 80 but only for a brief period of time.  In 1993 record winter flooding on the Salt River and Gila River caused a 120 foot section of the Gillespie Dam to fail which can be seen from the Gillespie Dam Bridge.



The Gillespie Dam replaced the earlier Auto Trail span located northeast of Wellton in Yuma County which was called the Antelope Hill Bridge.  The Antelope Hill Bridge was a wooden structure that was completed in 1915 over the Gila River.  The Antelope Hill Bridge carried the; Old Spanish Trail, Dixie Overland Trail, Southern National Highway, and Bankhead Highway over the Gila River from 1914 until the Gillespie Dam replaced it in 1921.  The original route from Yuma to Phoenix went through the communities of; Dome, Wellton (over to the north bank of the Gila River on the Antelope Hill Bridge), Palomas, Aqua Caliente, Arlington, and Buckeye.  The new route (which eventually became US 80) over the Gila River at the Gillespie Dam ultimately diverged in Wellton continuing on the south bank through the communities of; Stoval, Sentinel, and Gila Bend.  This 1924 Four Corners Area Auto Trail Maps shows both the Antelope Hill Route and Gillespie Dam Route over the Gila River.

Four Corners Auto Trail Map 

This 1927 highway map of Arizona shows the original routing of US 80.  It is unclear if the alignment if over the Gillespie Dam or Gillespie Dam Bridge.

1927 Arizona State Highway Map

This 1956 Arizona State Highway Map shows the shift of US 80 east to the AZ 85 corridor.

1956 Arizona State Highway Map


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Sunshine Bridge (Donaldsonville, LA)

Located about halfway between Baton Rouge and New Orleans in southern Louisiana, the Sunshine Bridge spans the lower Mississippi River near the city of Donaldsonville as part of the longer Louisiana Highway 70 corridor, which connects Interstate 10 and Airline Highway (US 61) with US 90 in Morgan City. In the years following World War II, the only bridges across the lower Mississippi River in Louisiana were located in the area of the state’s two largest cities – Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Postwar agricultural and industrial development along the river in this region led to the planning of a series of infrastructure projects in southern Louisiana that were aimed at spurring this development and modernization of the Delta region. One of these projects was known as the Acadian Thruway and was developed in the 1950s as a toll road intended to connect greater New Orleans with Lafayette and points west while providing a high-speed bypass of the Baton Rouge metro area. The Thruway, which

Old River Lock & Control Structure (Lettsworth, LA)

  The Old River Control Structure (ORCS) and its connecting satellite facilities combine to form one of the most impressive flood control complexes in North America. Located along the west bank of the Mississippi River near the confluence with the Red River and Atchafalaya River nearby, this structure system was fundamentally made possible by the Flood Control Act of 1928 that was passed by the United States Congress in the aftermath of the Great Mississippi River Flood of 1927 however a second, less obvious motivation influenced the construction here. The Mississippi River’s channel has gradually elongated and meandered in the area over the centuries, creating new oxbows and sandbars that made navigation of the river challenging and time-consuming through the steamboat era of the 1800s. This treacherous area of the river known as “Turnbull’s Bend” was where the mouth of the Red River was located that the upriver end of the bend and the Atchafalaya River, then effectively an outflow

Natchez-Vidalia Bridge (Natchez, MS)

  Located about halfway between Baton Rouge and Vicksburg near the city of Natchez, the Natchez-Vidalia Bridge crosses the lower Mississippi River between southwest Mississippi and northeastern Louisiana at the city of Vidalia. This river crossing is a dual span, which creates an interesting visual effect that is atypical on the Mississippi River in general. Construction on the original bridge took place in the late 1930s in conjunction with a much larger parallel effort by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to strengthen the area’s flood protection and levee system along the Mississippi River. One of the more ambitious aspects of this plan was to relocate the city of Vidalia to a location of higher ground about one mile downriver from the original settlement. The redirection of the river through the Natchez Gorge (which necessitated the relocation of the town) and the reconstruction of the river’s levee system in the area were undertaken in the aftermath of the Great Flood of 1927, wh