The Seven Mile Bridge

The Seven Mile Bridge

If you’re visiting the Florida Keys, get ready for some bridges. Of course, this being a drivable chain of islands, there are tons of bridges, but the most famous one of all is the Seven Mile Bridge. It was considered one of the Eight Wonders of the World after it was completed in 1912. It was then known as the Knights Key-Pigeon Key-Moser Channel-Pacet Channel Bridge. The Moser Channel section was a swing section for boats taller than 20 or so feet. Rather than a drawbridge, a swing bridge pivots on its center, swinging into existence complete clearance for taller ships. This original bridge was the brainchild of Henry Flagler, transportation developer extraordinaire of the Florida Keys. He was superbly rich, and used his wealth to support his obsession, which seemed to be constructing various modes of transportation throughout Southern Florida and the Florida Keys. He built the famous Florida East Coast Railway’s, and his Seven Mile Bridge was an extension of this railway, called the Key West Extension. It was built of concrete piers bolted into the bedrock below the water. The piers, in all a total of almost 550, supported steel girders. At first, the bridge supported rail tracks. But after the big, bad Hurricane of 1935, the railroad was wiped out. The bridge survived intact, and a road was built where the tracks had been before. They used the old track as guard rails for the new road.

The new Seven Mile Bridge was built in 1982 and it’s much, much larger. The Moser Channel section is no longer a swing bridge. Instead, the new Seven Mile Bridge rises up in an arc over the water and captains of tall boats can come and go under the arc all day long with no stoppage of car traffic above their heads.

Look for demolition of the old bridge in the final scene of True Lies, with Jamie Lee Curtis and the current governor of California in starring roles. Also look for quaint Pigeon Key two miles out on the old bridge, as you’re heading away from Marathon to the west. It’s an old preserved base camp for bridge workers on the original bridge. Now you can walk or bicycle out to it on the old bridge but you can’t drive your car. You can take a trolley tour, which leaves from the Overseas Highway on the Marathon end of the bridge, oceanside.

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