The Blue Point Bridge: Salt River

There have been three bridges built over the Salt River with the earliest bridge being built in 1915 and the last in 1927.  The bridge is 22 miles from Mesa where those who trailed sheep on the Heber Reno Sheep Driveway began.

The first bridge was built in 1915 and it was a wooden cantilever type bridge and cost the Arizona Wool Growers Association (AWGA) $800.  Unfortunately, this bridge only lasted one season of use by the sheep ranchers.  The first bridge was replaced in 1916.  Materials from the first bridge were used to build the second bridge and with the $1200 for new materials, the total cost was $2000.  Cables for the bridge came from the US Reclamation Service.  This bridge last 10 years.  It had not been designed with regard to stresses and strains of the sheep going over it twice a year as they were trailed to their northern summer grazing pastures and then back in the fall for the winter to the Salt River Valley.  On March 3, 1927, the bridge was dismantled.  An engineer and a construction foreman were furnished by the Forest Service.  The Santa Fe Railway loaned to the AWGA the heavy tools necessary to complete the work.  Some materials were furnished at a small profit by: O. S. Stapley Company (new cables, steel and small tools; The Foxworth-Bush Lumber Company (lumber); and Arizona Grocery Company (food and meat for laborers.  The bridge was completed April 15, 1927 in time for the sheep outfits to use to trail their sheep northward for the summer grazing.  Corrals were built at both end of the bridge to keep sheep waiting their turn to cross.  The White River Sheep Company was the first outfit to take their sheep across the new bridge.  The 4,000 sheep in three bands took 50 minutes to cross!

In the next 22 years, maintenance cost was low.  Of the $1,500 spent over the years, $1,100 was spent in 1948 for new decking and sides.  The cost for those repairs were $923.50 for payroll; $163 for industrial insurance and $11.50 for 1 barrel of gasoline.  These costs were shared by all sheep outfits that used the bridge: Earl, HC., J.H., and F. Roy Dobson; Larkin Fitch; Laurance, Donald, and Frank Ellsworth; Paradise Sheep Co.; W. A. Ryan; Diamond Sheep Co.; Paul Versluis; and Guy Whitten.  These sheep outfits had approximately 45,000 sheep they were running on this trail in 1948.   It outfit paid according to the number of sheep in each outfit, thus those with more sheep, paid more.


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