Opened in 2006, the pedestrian and bicycle bridge built over Murray Lock and Dam between Murray Park in Little Rock and Cook’s Landing Park in North Little Rock is a major addition to the Arkansas River Trail, connecting several miles of hiking and biking trails on both sides of the river. The 15.7 mile Big Dam Loop of the 88-mile Arkansas River Trail System, crosses the river at the Big Dam Bridge on the west with an eastern crossing over a renovated Rock Island Railroad bridge downtown at the Clinton Library. An extension route to Pinnacle Mountain State Park will connect to the 225 mile Ouachita Wilderness Trail.
Images from Big Dam Bridge:
The official dedication for the bridge was September 30, 2006.
The project’s official name is Pulaski County Pedestrian & Bicycle Bridge – Murray Lock and Dam—however, it is known as the Big Dam Bridge and is the world’s longest bridge specifically constructed as a pedestrian/bicycle bridge. At 4,226 feet (1288 m.) in length, the bridge rises to 65 feet over the surface of the Arkansas River and 30 feet over the dam. The span over the river is 3463 feet (1055 m.), with the ramps on either side of the river accounting for the rest of the length.
It is lit at night with 169 “Illumivision Lightwave LX” fixtures installed at the base of the 13 piers over the dam. Each light is a “wall washing LED that generates color-changing effects.”
Other dam bridge facts:
- The bridge has 679 feet of walled embankments.
- There are eight observation areas with benches.
- It’s designed to support two 36″ utility pipelines.
- The structure contains over 3 million pounds of steel.
- The bridge and associated trails assists in the connection of over 7,000 acres of city, county, state, and federal park land.
- Oversight of design and construction was provided by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to ensure the project would not interfere with navigation, though no corps funds were used in the construction.
- Funding was through a combination of federal and state transportation funds as well as local funding from Pulaski County and the cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock.
- It was constructed with “weathering steel girders” to minimize requirements for future maintenance.
- The bridge is gently sloped to comply with Uniform Federal Accessibility Standards.
- Using Murray Lock and Dam as foundation saved an estimated $10 million in construction costs
Murray Lock and Dam and the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) facts:
- Essentially a series of navigation pools connected by locks, the waterway enables vessels to overcome a 420-foot difference in elevation from the Mississippi River to the head of navigation at Catoosa, Oklahoma.
- There are 18 locks; 5 in Oklahoma and 13 in Arkansas. All lock chambers are 110-feet wide by 600 feet long.
- Size of towage accommodated: more than 8 jumbo (35 ft. X 195 ft.) barges with double lockage using tow haulage (Tow haulage equipment on a lock can pull the first cut through by itself, so that the towboat can stay in its original pushing position and lock through with the second cut.)
- A typical 8-barge 12,000-ton is equivalent to 400 semi-trucks or 120 railroad freight cars.
- The maximum lift from one navigation pool to another ranges from only 14 feet at lock No. 4 near Pine Bluff to as much as 54 feet at the Dardanelle Lock.
- The locks are operated 24 hours per day and handle both commercial barges and recreational vessels.
- Bridges over the channel have a minimum vertical clearance of 52 feet 98% of the time. Actual vertical clearance above the normal level of the navigation pool is normally more than 52 feet.
- Murray Lock and Dam is #7 going upstream, 125.4 miles from the Mississippi. Under normal pool conditions, the lower pool level is 231 ft above sea level and the upper pool is 249 ft., for a nominal change in elevation of 18 feet.
Commentary on the Big Dam Bridge:
There was already a woman from the United Kingdom who came to run in our first Big Dam Bridge 5K. She said before coming to Arkansas she had no idea where our state was on the map. This was her first 5K, and she chose to run it on the longest bridge in the world. I have a feeling more people, just like our friend across the pond, will visit Little Rock to say they, too, traveled across this landmark. — Governor Mike Huckabee, October 4, 2006
Links related to the Big Dam Bridge:
- Official web site – Pulaski County
- Arkansas River Trail
- Big Dam Bridge Foundation
- Arkansas Travelogue
- Little Rock
- State of Arkansas
- Illumivision Bridge Case Study – background on the bridge’s unique nighttime lighting (pdf.)
- Fox16.com – story from just prior to official opening
- Google Map – satellite view
Note – This page was originally published in 2007 and moved to Haw Creek and updated April 6, 2014 with information and links verified, corrected, amended, and/or appended.