Sunday, September 25, 2016


I don’t traverse a submersible bridge.  It’s really called a low-water crossing or sometimes an Irish bridge.  A submersible bridge, which is really a thing, is something else entirely.  Who knew?  Well, I’m sure somewhere someone who knows a bit about architecture, engineering or bridge building would know but I didn’t. Until now.

So… let’s talk about this way to cross the creek that I actually do have.

Picture this:  A couple of pieces of big culvert pipe are laid in the creek so that the water flows through them on its way downstream.  Then slabs of cement are fitted to them on the one side and smoothed flat on the other and placed on top.  When the water is low, all of it is able to move through the pipes and on its merry way.  If there’s an abundance of water, say because the pipes have become blocked with leaves and debris or there’s a big rain storm, the water will back up.  And when it’s deeper than the bridge is high, the design will let water start to flow over the top.

Here’s the low-water crossing I use.  Yes, it’s taken some damage from logs that have escaped from an operation somewhere upstream crashing into it.  (And now there's a guy who's pulling them out above here and processing them for sale.  I guess there are quite a few run away logs?)  Hypothetically, it could be repaired.  But because there are safety concerns with this type of crossing, the County (who’s in charge of zoning and permits and things like that) says it needs to be replaced with a structural bridge in a different location.  I understand their reasoning.  People worldwide die on this kind of crossing every year because their vehicle is swept away or they get out of it when it stalls because of water getting into the engine and are sucked under in the current or bashed into other debris. It’s a horrible and painful way to die!
At the same time, a new bridge is a huge expense and headache for my friend to take on.  And this is far from the only low-water crossing in the County.  In just my few days exploring I’ve seen several and even a few places with nothing at all – they drive right through their creek to get from the road to their house.  Maybe these low-water crossings are a relic of the past, but they seem to do their job pretty well.  And just like people, just because it’s old doesn’t mean it has no value.  I would hope there’s some balancing point where safety and pragmatism meet but I guess we’ll have to wait to see how this gets resolved.

Here’s more examples of this type of ‘bridge’ from around the world.

I believe this is in Australia.
Photo from:

And here's an example from Montgomery County, NC.
Photo from:

And to illustrate just how dangerous these types of bridges can be... here's one
from Arnoldsburg, WV showing a 2011 rescue effort.
Photo from:

No comments: