The Swinging Bridges of Scott County
The sight of a swinging bridge immediately transports me back to my childhood when I roamed the hills and valleys of Southwest Virginia with my grandfather, Clarence Bascom Sanders (Sandy). The Slant bridge near Slant Memorial Church played a significant role in my childhood.
I often accompanied my grandparents to church services, after which we would cross the Slant Bridge and walk down the hollow to Uncle Emmitt and Aunt Orpha Carter’s house. I have no memory of ever driving a car to their home. Instead, we would walk and my grandfather would tell stories about the “haints” and “headless horseman” that walked the road to Orpha’s. Occasionally, he would stop and point out a variety of wildflower and note the plant’s medicinal uses.
The Sanders family also has a cemetery around the other bend of the road, which is now Cat Channel Road. We walked there too. In fact, I was well into adulthood before I learned you could actually access both the Carter’s home and the Sanders’ Family cemetery via car. So my youth, full of walking the roads and bridges of Scott County, now has a direct effect on my adult life and career.
When I became director of tourism for Scott County last August, my first assignment was to create a brochure that mapped the “swinging” bridges of Scott County. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) lists 14 swinging bridges in the county. Of those 14, according to VDOT, only three are closed.
Since I am a visual person and already deeply connected to the Bridges of Scott County, I set out to capture the images of each swinging bridge. After all, I needed to make sure the bridges provided safe crossing for tourists.
It took me a couple of weeks, but I eventually tracked down the majority of the swinging bridges listed by VDOT. A couple of swinging bridges, located on Saratoga Road and Rocky Ridge Lane, were not accessible. Saratoga Road ends at a cow path, and Rocky Ridge Lane ends at a closed gate. I found two additional private swinging bridges on Copper Creek. There may be others in the county of which I am not aware.
But I will continue to look because, growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandfather, and the search makes me feel connected to him again. Back then, he would pack me up in his old Buick and off we would go to the places of his youth. We’d stop alongside the road, sometimes at the picnic tables at Moccasin Gap or just along the Starnes Bluff Road, and eat saltine crackers and Vienna Sausages—his favorite snack.
I loved those times. When he died, a part of me was lost. Luckily for me, I was able to re-capture that piece of me when my husband and I bought property on the Clinch River. It was the love for my grandfather that drew me to Scott County.
When we first pulled up to our spot on the Clinch, and I walked over and sat down in a swing overlooking the Clinch, I knew I was home. From that moment, I knew this was where we would bring our future grandchildren so that they could experience the love of land I found with my grandfather. I must admit only taking a quick glance at the house that once stood on our property. After making an offer on the house and land and, while driving away, I looked at my husband, and said, “Did that house have a bathroom?” (I had only seen an outhouse.)
Here’s the best part of the story—there is a swinging bridge within feet of our place on the Clinch. I walk there most every day. It keeps me grounded, connected to the important aspects of life my grandfather held dear—faith, family, hard work and preservation of the history and culture of this beautiful piece of our world, called Scott County.
I invite you to follow in my mapping journey. Below are images and directions to the Swinging Bridges I was able to locate. Sorry, we still don’t have the bridges mapped. Hopefully, the county’s mapping folks can get that done this summer. But I encourage you to chart your own course…Get out and Explore Scott County. It makes an excellent Sunday afternoon drive, and, more importantly, it is one of the best ways I know to stay connected to this wonderful place we are lucky enough to call home.
Please feel free to send photos of additional bridges to [email protected]