Ken Sulak, retired from USGS, sent this update on the Alapaha River bridge site 0.8 miles downstream from
Sullivan Launch Sasser Landing, or 0.64 miles downstream from the CR 150 bridge.
Plus a likely old ferry site, and maybe a previous location of Sullivan Launch Sasser Landing.
Jennings Bridge, Alapaha River, c. 1989 –Florida Memory
This is the site of the ‘Jennings Bridge’, a steel through-truss bridge, apparently built around 1902-1903. Some online bridge websites state that this is the oldest steel/iron highway bridge in Florida. But, that is doubtful—if the construction date I have is correct. For example, the ‘Adams Bridge’ aka ‘Steel Bridge’ in White Springs was built in 1891, and the original 2-span bowstring style bridge, the ‘Lee Bridge’ over the Withlacoochee (right where the current CR-141 bridge is located) may have been built in the late 1880s. I would like to explore the riverbank and look at what remains of the bridge supports. If there are cutoff Lally columns, then the Jennings Bridge was probably indeed built around 1902-1903. But if the supports are old limerock concrete or brick, then it would have been built before 1898.
Anyway, I was just writing to note the name of the Jennings Bridge—you might want to add that to your interactive map. Hinton’s 1976 History of Hamilton County calls it by that name, as well as Florida Memory. Some folks say it collapsed in the late 1970s, one article says 1981, Florida Memory Archive has several photos of the falling-apart, but still-standing bridge dated 1989.
Unfortunately, Florida Memory has another batch of photos labeled Jennings Bridge, but they are not—instead, those of photos of the old steel bridge over the Alapaha just upstream of Nobles Ferry—on old CR 387.
I have not yet had an opportunity to paddle the reach from Sasser downstream—to get a look at the remains of the fallen bridge and examine the potential ferry crossing. I want to examine that slot and look for a potential old anchor oak where a ferry cable may have been secured. Seems the river is always either too high or too low when I have a chance to head up there—I am typically solo, so I need a level that allows me to go downstream from Sasser and then paddle back up. I would like to get some photos of the bridge supports still remaining on the river bank. WWALS may have some posted from earlier paddle trips??? But I have difficulty foraging through the posts, maps, etc.—looking for site-specific photos.
Here are some pictures of Sasser Landing to Jennings Bluff in 2015, but I don’t think they show any of these features.
Back to Ken:
I have seen a photo of the bridge pier on the riverbank—maybe a WWALS photo???—but cannot relocate where I found that. If there are photos of the old bridge remains on WWALS—maybe you can direct me to the post where they are located?
I am going to attach some Florida Memory photos—those that are indeed the Jennings Bridge.
Here’s what Florida Memory says about that first 1989 picture, which is in the public domain. ennings Bridge over the Alapaha River – Hamilton County, Florida.
IMAGE NUMBER N029695
DATE 1989 (circa)
COLLECTION General collection
GEOGRAPHIC TERM Jennings Bridge (Hamilton County, Fla.)
SUBJECT TERM Truss bridges–Florida–Hamilton County
PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION 1 photonegative – b&w – 2 x 2 in.
This is all that remains of the oldest highway bridge in Florida. It has lost its timber plank deck, most of the floor beams and stringers, and its approaches.
A Pratt through truss bridge, built in 1902-1903 by the American Bridge Co. of New York City for $2,788.
Ken also wrote in the same message:
Sasser Landing ramp was built in 2010—the first year it shows up on Google Earth maps. However the name ‘Sasser Landing’ is much older. I think, but am not sure, that the original Sasser Landing was a bit downstream from the Jennings Bridge, at the end of Sasser Cemetery road. In need to investigate and explore further. Just downstream of Jennings Bridge, the old Sasser Cemetery road that is now NW 14 Terrace ends at the river—you can no longer go down that road, now on private property, posted and fenced. But, on the opposite shore there is a dirt road that matches up from the east, off of NW 79 Dr—I tried going down that road—but it is private and gated.
There also appears to be a slot cut into the bank on the west side—often good evidence of an old ferry landing. So, I am guessing this is the location of the 1836 ferry, and possibly a boat landing for transporting cotton, etc. downstream to the Suwannee River when the river was high enough (speculation—but there has to be a reason that it was called a ‘landing’). There is scant information on the 1836 ferry—still researching that.
The ARWT web pages and map are updated now for
- Sasser’s Landing African-American Cemetery,
- Sasser’s Landing Cemetery,
- Jennings Bluff African-American Cemetery, and
- Jennings Bluff Cemetery.
-jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®
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