But the concrete and steel framed, 200-foot high bridge we all recognize today was not the original Duncan Bridge.
The original Duncan Bridge was built in 1900 standing 90 feet above the fast moving waters of the Sipsey River. The land for the bridge was donated by James “Jim” Duncan. He and his son Henry also helped with the construction.
It’s purpose? To provide safe passage over the Sipsey River.
The last vehicle to ever cross the 60-year, wooden bridge was on January 4, 1961 when the State Department officially closed the ancient span and began tearing it down to make way for the more substantial and higher Duncan Bridge.
It’s new purpose? To provide safe passage over the soon to be Lewis Smith Lake.
Smith Lake was to be fed primarily by water runoff from the Bankhead National Forest and it was expected to take approximately three years to fill up. This would have allowed plenty of time to build the new bridge, but Mother Nature had different plans.
In February-March of 1961, a succession of low-pressure systems from the Gulf of Mexico moved northward and produced several intense storms. This series of storms caused record-breaking floods, often referred to as the 100-year flood, filling the reservoir before the new Duncan Bridge was finished. Until the new Duncan Bridge could be completed, vehicles were transported across the river by ferry.
But Duncan Bridge is more than simply a means of carrying people from one side of the water to another.
Duncan Bridge is a more than 100-year historical landmark on Smith Lake.