Discover the Oldest Active Bridge That Spans the Mississippi River

Written by Nixza Gonzalez
Updated: July 18, 2023
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The Mississippi River is an old river in the United States. Despite its name, the Mississippi River runs through 10 different states. It’s also the second-longest river in the United States. The Mississippi River is also home to one of the oldest active bridges in the United States.

Are you ready to discover the oldest active bridge that spans the Mississippi River and learn more about the river?

Mississippi River infographic
The Mississippi River is 2,340 miles long!

About the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is beautiful and brings visitors from all over the world. Its traditional source is Lake Itasca, a small glacial lake in northern Minnesota. The river is about 2,340 m long and its widest part is 11 miles.

However, there are spots in the Mississippi River, where the river is narrow, only stretching about 10 to 20 feet wide. At its traditional source, the river has an average depth of 3 feet. However, the deepest part of the river is 200 feet deep and near New Orleans. This river is divided into three sections: the Upper Mississippi, the Middle Mississippi, and the Lower Mississippi.

Paddle-wheeler on the Mississippi river in Memphis, Tennessee

The Mississippi River

is beautiful and brings visitors from all over the world.

©iStock.com/ianpjones

Animals in the Mississippi River

The Mississippi River is large and diverse. There are over 120 species of fish alone that call the Mississippi River their home. However, the types of fish you can find in the Mississippi River depend on the location. Some of the more common fish include northern pike, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, bluegill, walleye, and crappie. There are larger river monsters like gulf sturgeon, longnose gar, paddlefish, blue catfish, and alligator gar. Alligators are also common in the river’s basin. They prefer brackish waters and marshes. Although not as common as alligators, bull sharks travel throughout the Mississippi River.

Catfish, Fish, Mississippi River, Underwater, USA

A flathead catfish, Pylodictis Olivares, on the bottom of the Mississippi River.

©iStock.com/stammphoto

What is the Oldest Active Bridge That Spans the Mississippi River?

The oldest active bridge that spans the Mississippi River is the Eads Bridge. It connects the cities of St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, Illinois. The bridge is 6,442 feet long and 46 feet wide. It carries 4 highway lanes and 2 MetroLink tracks. The Eads Bridge is an arch bridge. Construction began in 1867 and the bridge opened in 1874. It’s the world’s first all-steel bridge.

The Eads Bridge was designed and constructed by the Illinois and St. Louis Bridge Company and the Keystone Bridge Company. It was built when railroads were growing in importance and the river shipping trade industry was declining.

The hope was that the bridge would connect railroad and vehicle transportation across the river. James Eads had no experience in bridge building but was chosen as chief engineer for the bridge. It is an engineering marvel. He built an all-steel bridge that survived a strong current of almost 12 1⁄2 feet per second and ice floes in the winter.

James Eads built this active bridge to last. Sadly many lives were lost while this bridge was being constructed. Workers used a caisson, a type of diving bell, to dig into the Mississippi River bed. However, the air pressure was increased to hold back the river. This led to the development of decompression sickness. During its use, 119 workers were sick with symptoms, and 14 died.

The Eads Bridge is a combined road and railway bridge over the Mississippi River connecting the cities of St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, Illinois.

©iStock.com/Jon Rehg

The Oldest Active Bridge in the United States

The Frankford Avenue Bridge is the oldest active bridge in the United States. It was constructed in 1697 and is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The bridge was built to connect William Penn’s mansion to the new city of Philadelphia. This three-span twin-stone arch bridge is 73 feet long. In 1803, workers paved macadam on the bridge.

There was a widening of the bridge in 1893 for streetcars and yet again in 1950. It’s also a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Fun fact, George Washington, the first president of the United States, crossed the bridge while on his way to his first presidential inauguration.

stone arch bridge on Frankford Avenue

The Frankford Avenue Bridge is the oldest active bridge in the United States. It was constructed in 1697 and is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

©2,576 × 1,920 pixels, file size: 1.02 MB, MIME type: image/jpeg – License

The Oldest Active Bridge in the Entire World

The oldest active bridge in the world is Arkadiko Bridge in Argolis, Greece. Impressively, it is from over 3,000 years ago. This Mycenaean bridge consists of stone and is a corbel arch bridge. The oldest bridge in existence though is the bridge at Tello.

It is likely over 4,000 years old, however, it’s not active. There was a recent rediscovery of the bridge in 1929 in Iraq. It was built for the ancient Sumerian city of Girsu and it was over an ancient waterway. Currently, a team of British Museum archaeologists and Iraqi heritage professionals

Arkadiko Bridge

The oldest active bridge in the world is Arkadiko Bridge in Argolis,

Greece

.

©6,002 × 3,993 pixels, file size: 9.88 MB, MIME type: image/jpeg – License

Where is The Eads Bridge Located on a Map?

The Eads Bridge links St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, Illinois, as a combined road and railway bridge that spans across the Mississippi River. It is situated on the St. Louis riverfront between Laclede’s Landing to the north and the Gateway Arch grounds to the south.

Here is The Eads Bridge on a map:

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Jon Rehg


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About the Author

Nixza Gonzalez is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics like travel, geography, plants, and marine animals. She has over six years of experience as a content writer and holds an Associate of Arts Degree. A resident of Florida, Nixza loves spending time outdoors exploring state parks and tending to her container garden.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the oldest bridge on the Mississippi River?

The oldest active bridge that spans the Mississippi River is the Eads Bridge. It connects the cities of St. Louis, Missouri, and East St. Louis, Illinois.

What is the oldest bridge in the world?

The oldest active bridge in the world is Arkadiko Bridge in Argolis, Greece. Impressively, it is from over 3,000 years ago.

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