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On Tour: One of the Longest Cycling / Hiking Bridges in the World

18 Oct 2014

Murray Lock and Dam—Photo: SRR
Murray Lock and Dam—Photo: SRR

LITTLE ROCK—The "Big Dam Bridge" is one of the longest bridges in the World dedicated for cycling/hiking that crosses the Arkansas River and connects Little Rock and North Little Rock. Situated at the Murray Lock and Dam site, the bridge is 90 feet (27 m) over the river and 30 feet (9.1 m) over the dam. The entire length of the bridge is 3,463 feet (1055 m). The $12.8 million project was completed in Sept. 2006.

Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines once said, "We are going to build that dam bridge," hence, the name Big Dam Bridge was coined.

Arkansas River Trail ramp to the Big Dam Bridge—Photo: SRR
Arkansas River Trail ramp to the Big Dam Bridge—Photo: SRR

For cyclists, the question is "What's the grade percentage?" It is 5% climb for length of 1500 feet (457 m) on each ramp.

In the evening, the bridge is lit up with 16 million colors of LED lighting. According to Pulaski County data, approximately 100,000 people crossed the Big Dam Bridge in 2011. The structure was named by the American Travel Writers as one of the top 10 bridges in the United States.

The bridge is part of the 17-mile (27-km) Arkansas River Trail that runs on both sides of the river. It connects the trailhead of Murray Park, located west of the dam, to the trailhead of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library, located east of downtown Little Rock. A converted Rock Island Railroad bridge, built in 1899, connects the North Little Rock side to the Little Rock side at the Presidential Library trailhead. Even though cyclists have a choice of riding either side of the river, it has been reported that most cyclists prefer the North Little Rock side because the trail is not shared with existing motorized vehicle roads as much as it is on the Little Rock side. It also brings riders closer to the banks of the river.

Old Rock Island bridge on the Arkansas River Trail—Photo:SRR
Old Rock Island bridge on the Arkansas River Trail—Photo:SRR

Another bridge called Junction Bridge connects the two cities between their respective business districts and the 18,000-seat Verizon Arena located on the North Little Rock side. Located next to this bridge is the la Petite Roche, French for "The Little Rock" named in 1721 by French explorer Jean-Baptiste Bénard de la Harpe.

There are plans to expand the Arkansas River Trail out to Pinnacle Mountain, a twin-peak mountain that rises 1,011 feet (308 m) above sea level, 750 feet (230 m) over the Arkansas River. The trail has been a favorite of YouTube enthusiasts including one who used a drone to capture the trail below with the river and mountains in the backdrop.

Little Rock, a state capital, is located in the central part of the state of Arkansas. Its Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) population is approximately 735,000, based on 2013 U. S. Census estimates.

In our next report, Solid Rock Riders will report on the Mississippi River Trail in New Orleans, a city that is ranked 22 out of 50 best bike cities in the US by Bicycling magazine. (San Antonio is ranked 48th; it made the list because of its Mission Reach Riverwalk.)

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