Basalt History Tour
In 1947 the Town Replaced the Wooden Bridge with a Swinging BridgeIn 1880, prior to Basalt’s existence, a one-lane post-and-beam wooden structure was built over the Fryingpan as a wagon bridge for horse and stage traffic passing from Aspen to Glenwood Springs. The bridge, pictured in the small photo below, was in use until 1908 as the main route for traffic up and down the valley. Note the size and volume of the Frying Pan River, which at this time was uncontrolled. The tranquil river you see today was tamed by the construction of Ruedi Dam in 1968.
The road that bridge crossed was the Highway 82 of its time through the early growth days of Basalt and Aspen, carrying all the stage, wagon and horse traffic up and down the valley. The wagon road came in from the southeast through Fryingpan over to Aspen Junction/Basalt and, following current Homestead Drive, on to Glenwood Springs. You can see its location in the left center of the larger photo, with the road coming down the valley, passing the old school on the bench and crossing the bridge directly into town.
Regular wash-outs of the bridge resulted in frequent reconstruction. In 1908 the main road was rerouted across the new Pueblo Bridge, just upstream, and the old wooden bridge was relegated to occasional wagon and pedestrian use. The old bridge was also used by the Town’s kids to access the old school, located on the site of the existing school, as seen on the light-colored triangle of land just above the town in the larger photo. By 1926 this bridge had deteriorated and was condemned by the Town Council but was still used for pedestrian traffic.In 1947, after several years when the north side of the bridge washed-out, the Town replaced the wooden bridge with a swinging bridge, like the one you see, which rickety as it was, lasted until 2001, when a cottonwood tree fell and damaged the old cables. The Town replaced it with the existing state-of-the-art swinging bridge you see in front of you.
Still used by residents to access the school and downtown, the swinging bridge has become a cherished part of Basalt. Fishermen and kids stand on the bridge and watch trout. The bridge provides a quiet respite along the beautiful trail. Now you will cross it to see the next part of Basalt’s history.