About Rockville Bridge
ROCKVILLE BRIDGE HISTORY
Constructed in 1924 and spanning the Virgin River in the Town of Rockville, Utah, this single-lane bridge is the only surviving Parker Through Truss type bridge used for vehicular travel in the State of Utah. The U.S. Bureau of Public Roads designed the Rockville Bridge for the National Park Service. C.F. Dinsmore, an Ogden bridge contractor, erected the bridge on site from prefabricated steel components manufactured by the Minneapolis Steel & Machinery Company. The structural and historical integrity of the bridge have been exceptionally well preserved and on August 4, 1995, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Rockville Bridge performed a valuable role in the development of tourism in southwest Utah. Between 1924 and 1930, the Bridge provided the primary automobile route for visitors to Utah’s National Parks. For early Park visitors, it cut 33 miles off the trek from Zion National Park to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. In 1926 tourists could arrive by train at the south rim of the Grand Canyon and take a daily bus service on a loop tour to Bryce Canyon then on to Zion National Park with a return trip to the Grand Canyon by way of the Rockville Bridge with a stop at Pipe Springs National Monument. When the Zion Mt. Carmel Highway and tunnel was completed in 1930 this more direct and easier route became the favored way to access Zion National Park from the Grand Canyon.
Today the bridge serves Rockville properties on the south side of the Virgin River, recreationists accessing Gooseberry Mesa and Smithsonian Butte, as well as tourists and historians visiting the Historic Town of Grafton. Rockville faces many challenges from tourism and recreational impacts, with over four million visitors annually descending upon this narrow canyon. The Rockville Bridge is a local treasure and important architectural structure and is being protected for future generations.
The Town of Rockville is considered a rural, residential, and agricultural community, with only 247 residents. Since its founding by Mormon pioneers in 1862, Rockville has maintained the integrity of its historical town plan and has been referred to by historians as “Utah’s last treasure”. Rockville has little commercial activity, so the tax base is relatively small.
In late 2012, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) completed a detailed inspection and evaluation of the Historic Rockville Bridge. Their inspection revealed significant deterioration and the load rating was downgraded from 25 to 14-tons. Federal funds were granted to replace the historic bridge with a new two-lane bridge. In 2013, the Five County Association of Governments conducted a survey of all Rockville residents and property owners. With a 57% response rate, 74% indicated a preference to restore the existing bridge.
As a result, in 2015, the Town petitioned the Joint Highway Committee to alter the scope of work from a new two-lane replacement bridge to a full rehabilitation of the existing bridge. Following a comprehensive feasibility study by Michael Baker International (see below), and given the support of local citizens, the Joint Highway Committee and Utah’s Transportation Commission approved the change to rehabilitate the Historic Rockville Bridge in June of 2016.
The community of 247 engaged in volunteer fundraising efforts led by Mayor Pam Leach, the Town Council and a Fundraising Committee. These efforts included Town budget allocations, rubber ducky races, art exhibitions and auctions, collection jars, the receipt of several generous grants and many other activities, which netted over $70,000 towards the required matching funds for the Federal grant.
The Town of Rockville, with sponsorship from Representative Brad Last and the support of Senator Evan Vickers, made a request to the Utah State Legislature for appropriation funding in the amount of $100,000, which was approved in March of 2017. This completed the matching funds in the amount of $169,250 needed from the Town. Assistance from the Utah State Legislature ensured the preservation of this iconic structure.
Rehabilitation on the bridge began in September 2018 by Wadsworth Brothers Construction, with help and supervision from Lochner Engineering and UDOT.
A temporary bypass bridge running along the east side of the historic bridge was installed to handle traffic while work was completed.
Along with the needed strengthening to the steel members of the bridge and replacement of the bearings on the North end, the bridge was sandblasted and painted, and a new timber glulam deck and hardwood running boards provide a smooth surface for vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and is in keeping with the original deck system.
On May 3, 2019, the Town celebrated the completion of the rehabilitation project with the help of State and local officials, residents, supporters and vintage Model T’s from the same era as the bridge.
Should you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to the Bridges ongoing maintenance fund, you may do so by cash or check in person at the Town Office between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m., Monday through Friday at 43 East Main Street.
Thank you for your support!
Town of Rockville
Historic Bridge Fund
George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Foundation
Grafton Heritage Partnership
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Preservation Utah Simmons Family Foundation
Town of Springdale
Washington County Historical Society
Zion Canyon Arts & Humanities Council
Zion National Park