The Cotter Bridge

September 06, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Have you ever been to Cotter, Arkansas?

If you don’t live somewhere near Northwest Arkansas or Southwest Missouri, the answer might be no...and that’s too bad….because it is definitely a little place worth exploring!

When I was a little girl, my Daddy worked for a company called Ozark Sash and Door owned and operated in Springdale and Berryville, Arkansas by the Hanby family. Before the days of the big box stores, there was a hardware store of some type in most every little community. Daddy traveled a regular route weekly through Missouri and Arkansas, selling building materials to those little stores. Sometimes, Mother and I would ride with him...

On Tuesdays, his route took him from Harrison to Mountain Home, with many stops in between. Traveling the old 62 highway back in those days took us across the Cotter Bridge...

The old bridge is unique in many ways. Sitting high above the White River, it is beautiful with its patented rainbow arches and lighted lamps. As a little girl however, crossing the bridge was fun for another reason. When on the bridge headed toward Cotter, a large, old railroad trestle sits to your left, angling diagonally toward your path. It intersects the Cotter Bridge just at the end, crossing underneath at the last minute. Sometimes, a train would be chugging across that trestle bridge just as we, in Daddy’s truck, were driving across the Cotter bridge. It was always exciting - looking just a tiny bit like we were surely about to collide with the train (in my little girl’s mind). It was a little bit scary - and lots of fun!


Cotter BridgeCotter Bridge

The Cotter Bridge has an interesting history. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas, it was completed in 1930. Originally operated as a toll bridge to recoup construction costs, it allowed east-west travelers a reliable White River crossing. Ferries used previously were often unavailable due to frequent flooding in the area, and the closest detour crossing was 100 miles to the north in Branson, Missouri. Designed by the Marsh Engineering Company in Des Moines, Iowa, the graceful structure is still beautiful today.

When highway 62 was rerouted near the turn of this century, a new bridge was built just a short distance to the northeast. Thankfully, the old bridge was preserved and remains open to vehicle traffic for anyone who likes to veer off the beaten path.
All these years later, a visit to the Cotter bridge is still something I enjoy. I make the drive over several times a year…it’s a great little day trip. Beneath the bridge, there is a pleasant little city park on the banks of the White River. Big Springs Park is a relaxing gathering place for families, fishermen, and old folks…

The park pays homage to Cotter’s railroad history with a caboose, a statue, and some interesting informational markers to read as you wander about. There’s also a boat ramp, fishing spots, picnic tables, benches, a covered pavilion, a sand volleyball court, a quaint little gazebo that could serve as a bandstand, a walking path, and best of all a true old-fashioned swimming hole complete with a rope swing.

It’s fun to visit the park on a summer afternoon or evening, to sit and watch the kids play in the swimming hole, to picnic, or just set up your lawn chairs in a shady spot, enjoy the cool breezes blowing in from the river, and visit with folks from all over. Cotter, after all, is known as the “Trout Fishing Capital of the World” and many people travel miles to enjoy this quaint little town. I always drive to nearby Gassville first, to pick up a pizza at Nima’s. (This little pizza place has won numerous awards including “Best in the U.S.” at national competitions and even “Best in the World” at international events. Definitely a “don’t miss” place!)

The best part of the park, however, are the magnificent views of the historic old bridge. I hope you enjoy the images I captured last month on one of my day trips over there. It truly is a beautiful, peaceful, and rejuvenating spot.  

Click here for a shortcut to the gallery.  Thank you for stopping by!


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