Photo of the week: the old Otowi Bridge

Otowi Bridge, photo Steve Collins

Otowi Bridge, photo/Steve Collins

We’ve crossed the Rio Grande River on NM 502 many times as it zips through the San Ildefonso Pueblo. We’ve caught glimpses of the Otowi Bridge many times, but never stopped to get a good look at it. We did on a day trip to Los Alamos this week and shot this photo.  It’s an amazing piece of history. During World War II, Manhattan Project scientists traveled over that bridge on their way to the secret Los Alamos location after first checking in at 109 East Palace Avenue in Santa Fe. The bridge, built in 1924, was built to access the Los Alamos Ranch School which was taken over by the U.S. Government for the top secret Manhattan Project. The bridge was closed after WWII and replaced by a truss bridge and that one was replaced when the highway was widened after Los Alamos was opened to the public. If that old bridge could talk, oh the stories it could tell!

The abandoned buildings you see on the north side of the highway were Edith Warner’s Tea house and a United States Post Office. If you want to know more about the tea house and Otowi Crossing read Peggy Pond Church’s 1960 book, The House at Otowi Bridge. Her father, Ashley Pond, started the Los Alamos Ranch School (aka Boys Ranch School) in 1917. Students at the rustic but elite boarding school included William S. Burroughs, Gore Vidal, and John Crosby the founder of the Santa Fe Opera.

Author’s note: Thanks to Deborah Torres of Than Povi Gallery and Georgia Strickfaden of Buffalo Tours in Los Alamos for sharing their memories and knowledge of Otowi Crossing history with us.

Tags: , , , , ,

13 Responses to “Photo of the week: the old Otowi Bridge”

  1. Peter Parker
    July 26, 2019 at 11:56 pm #

    Great, quiet old bridge.

  2. John Daniel
    July 27, 2019 at 12:12 am #

    Is it a wooden bridge, then how can it remained in good condition so long?

    • Billie Frank
      July 27, 2019 at 12:03 pm #

      I think the supports are concrete- will have to look next time we head that way. The roadbed is definitely wood. Have no idea how it remains in good condition. Great question!

  3. Phillius Thomas
    August 28, 2019 at 7:56 am #

    That is a cool looking bridge. I am glad they leave these pieces of history up. Are you able to walk across it, or is it closed of to the public in case of breakage and/or vandalizing?

    • Billie Frank
      August 28, 2019 at 11:49 am #

      It’s closed to the public. It’s on San Ildefonso Pueblo land. I don’t know why they have it closed- but they do control public access to the Pueblo so that may be why. It also may not be safe after all these years.

      • Phillius Thomas
        August 31, 2019 at 5:12 am #

        That is unfortunate, but understandable that it may be unsafe now.

        • Billie Frank
          August 31, 2019 at 12:06 pm #

          I think it’s also closed as it’s on San Ildefonso Pueblo lands.

  4. Billie Frank
    September 8, 2019 at 11:26 am #

    It’s definitely worth a look!

  5. Rashedun Nabi
    November 6, 2019 at 2:06 am #

    This bridge looks like an ancient architecture in nature. Quite a better item of journey. This is really excellent photo.

  6. Graham
    March 11, 2019 at 3:06 pm #

    Awesome photo. Very cool to see. Awesome history behind it - I love anything WW2 history.

    • Billie Frank
      March 12, 2019 at 10:50 am #

      The bridge sure has a lot of history- wish it could talk!

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge