Deep in the heart of Avoyelles Parish is the Sarto Old Iron Bridge. Built in 1916 for just over $5000, It spans Bayou Des Glases near the community known as Big Bend. It's a steel truss swing bridge. Meaning it could open to boats that couldn't fit under, then close again for vehicular and pedestrian traffic. You start to wonder, why would such a bridge exist?
Long before levees and the Old River Structures were built to harness in the Mississippi, Atchafalaya and Red, these rivers flowed naturally. Weaving back and forth, swelling during the spring, taking over wetlands as it had for centuries. "This area was frequently flooding so they needed a higher bridge so they could move goods in the west to the landing at Old River"
The bridge was built to be utilized during high water, allowing goods to reach a railway and shipping terminal near the Red River. It was also used to evacuate residents in the area when waters were forecast to rise.
The flood of 1927 wiped out the terminal. The area was forever changed with the building of the Old River Structure, and the elevation of levees. The flood threat now gone, it was closed to boat traffic in 1930. It was still open to vehicular traffic until the late 1980s, then closed. Eventually, the bridge fell in disrepair.
A few residents of Avoyelles Parish decided that there was enough historical significance to the bridge to see it preserved, and refurbished. They were able to secure funding for restoration, and it was reopened to pedestrian traffic in 2011. It's one of the few surviving bridges of this type, and was the first bridge in Louisiana listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And it's an official Atchafalaya Water Heritage Trail site.
While you're there, take a walk. Bring a picnic lunch. Enjoy the sights, sounds and beauty of Bayou des Glases. Parking is easy, and visit the grocery store and Big Bend Post office and museum across the street.
Other places to enjoy while you're in Central Louisiana. The Northup Trail where you can follow the footsteps to freedom. Or perhaps visit the Geographic Center of Louisiana. Not much there, but you can say you were right in the heart of our state!