The idea for building the bridge emerged in the late 1990’s. Piered into an existing lock-and-dam, the bridge was to be nearly a mile in length—the longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge in the world—spanning the Arkansas River and joining not only the twin cities of Little Rock and North Little Rock but fifteen miles of beautiful riverside trails. It was certainly one of the biggest projects ever undertaken in the city, and at the turn of the century it came close to being scrapped as too big, too costly, and too complicated.
That’s when, at one of the planning meetings, Pulaski County Judge Buddy Villines punned the thing into existence: “We are going to build that dam bridge!” Laughter and renewed determination became the order of the day, and The Big Dam Bridge is now one of the happiest, most vibrant, and most impressive features of this choice city of the South.
Seven days a week, from pre-dawn to midnight, young and old are on the bridge—running, cycling, skating, walking, or simply standing and peering over the rail at the river rolling, always rolling, nearly a hundred feet below. It has become a favorite hub for Little Rock recreational activity, connecting over 70,000 acres of parkland, including Burns Park, Riverfront Park, and Twin Rivers Park—which now has a pedestrian/bicycle bridge of its own.
The Big Dam span is also the starting point for what has become the state’s big bicycle tour. At the beginning of every fall, thousands of cyclists from all across Arkansas, America, and over twenty other countries converge on top of the bridge’s nearly thirty million pounds of steel and concrete to ride and race the Big Dam Bridge 100. Offering routes ranging from fifteen to one hundred miles, the BDB 100 includes a variety of challenges and some of the best mountain and river scenery to be found in the Natural State. To many, the Big Dam Bridge is an event as much as it is a place or structure.
And to others, it is a monument—a monument to the progressive growth of metro Little Rock, to the pervading spirit of natural beauty and outdoor activity, to the friendship and community the area enjoys. It is also a monument to the imagination, creativity, and good old-fashioned bulldog determination of the Arkansans who dreamed it up and saw it through to the end, making it not only one of Little Rock’s most attractive features but one of the biggest dam bridges in the world!