On Texas State Highway 16, an 18-stone arched bridge spans the Brazos River about a mile below the Morris Sheppard Dam—or as the locals call it the Possum Kingdom Dam. Drivers pass over this unique stone arch bridge every day and never give it a second thought, but it has a fascinating history.
So what makes this stone arch bridge special compared to thousands of others? At 433 feet long, it is the longest stone arch bridge in Texas. Construction materials were quarried from local limestone, and the bridge features fine craftsmanship, the result of an investment in infrastructure after the Great Depression.
It was built by the workers assigned to the Work Projects Administration (WPA) from 1940 to 1942 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Second New Deal. After the Great Depression, millions were unemployed and the WPA brought together workers from all walks of life. Coal miners were brought in to build the bridge, bringing with them the skill set that was needed for such a task. It was their skill of handling and cutting stone that made the difference in the project. There were approximately 74 skilled workers and 250 unskilled workers or laborers on the two-year project.
The spans of the bridge range between 23-35 feet. State highway engineers chose the heavy masonry form to withstand flood waters from the Morris Sheppard Dam located just upstream.
Know Before You Go
Take Texas Highway 254 West from Graford to Texas Highway 16 (about 7 miles). At the fork, turn left (south) and follow Texas Highway 16 for about 5.5 miles.