It might look like something that should be hanging in the Andes Mountains of South America or near a majestic waterfall in Africa, but the Pawhuska swinging bridge is barely more than a stone’s throw from the city’s downtown.
Nearly 50 feet below, indolent Bird Creek crawls (not-so-majestically) toward an inevitable meeting with the Arkansas River.
Although many would guess it to be much older, the bridge actually was built in 1926 — designed by a city engineer named J.M. Buckley. Back then, it provided the lone access to town during times of high water. Now, it is merely a novelty - one that evokes both love and fear among city officials.
“It has thrilled or terrified every creek crosser since the early days of Pawhuska,” said the dude with the beard and camera whose card I can’t find. “It bounces and shakes whenever it’s occupied. The bridge and downtown actually are at opposite ends of Kihekah Avenue, the bridge near where it bends to follow the creek’s contour and the downtown just before the roadway begins a climb which eventually leads to the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve.
City Councilman Travis Finley, pastor of the First Baptist Church located across the road from the landmark, has undertaken a project to erect a sign telling its history. He hopes that the sign — located at a tiny roadside park near the bridge’s east entrance - will not suffer the same fate as a nearby street light and become a target of vandals.
Although it is only four blocks from Pawhuska Police Station, there is very little traffic along Kihekah on that side of Main Street (which also is Highway 60 connecting Bartlesville and Ponca City).
The venerable landmark was re-planked and refurbished four decades ago