In Waterport wilderness, signs from a different era

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 October 2013 at 12:00 am

“This is a great place to go exploring.”
– Brandon Blount

Photos by Tom Rivers – Brandon Blount stands by one of the stone walls that once propped up a bridge in Waterport by the Oak Orchard River.

WATERPORT – The former Waterport Trestle is famous locally. Mention the trestle around these parts, and many people will talk about riding their bikes and snowmobiles on the elevated bridge that used to carry trains over the Oak Orchard River. The trestle has been gone for 20 years.

The stone pillars and support bases for the trestle still remain. The stone is massive.

Every fall, hundreds of fishermen pass by the trestle bases along the Oak Orchard River. Stray from the fishing path along the creek and more of Waterport’s history remains in the woods.

The stone supports for a bridge that may have been built in the mid-1800s remain next to the Oak Orchard River, about a 100-yard walk from the Waterport Dam.

Brandon Blount doubts many people venture off the worn dirt paths in one of the area’s most popular fishing spots. Locals and out-of-state anglers will crowd the area by the Waterport Dam trying to hook Chinook salmon. They may venture down a path on the east side of the river to see how the fish how are biting.

Blount, 35, grew up taking many walks in the woods with his grandfather, the late Don “Cookie” Cook, a well-known local wildlife photographer. Cookie also liked the area’s history. He found an eager ear in Blount.

Fishermen seem oblivious to all of the old stone pieces near the Oak Orchard River and their past role in holding up bridges.

About two weeks ago Blount showed me the remnants of two pieces of Waterport history. The Medina sandstone walls remain on the west side of the Oak Orchard River just north of the trestle. The walls were part of a bridge that Blount thinks may date back to the 1850s.

It doesn’t have any steel supports. One of the wooden beams remains. Blount said the old bridges were typically abandoned and left to rot while something new may have been built close by. That’s what happened in Waterport.

Brandon Blount created this map of the area just north of the Waterport Dam. He highlighted the spot of the former Waterport Trestle and two bridges that once spanned the Oak Orchard River. The trestle is the bigger red box on the bottom. An older bridge was north of the trestle and then it was replaced with one farther to the north. Blount used an image from Google Maps to create the map.

The first bridge still has a wall and a beam and a few cast iron pins that helped hold things together. There isn’t a well worn path by this. You have to battle the weeds and dodge the trees.

One of the wooden beams still sticks up. But it looks like the bugs and nature have taken a toll on the wood. This stone wall can be seen on the other side of the river. In fact, several fishermen were wading in the water not too far away, oblivious to the area’s former industrial and railroad mite.

Blount is pictured by one of the support beams that remains from a bridge that was removed long ago from Waterport.

Blount knows some people know about the bridge with the wooden beams. If you have an imagination and wander down the river, you’ll see the stone wall and the beam and you might wonder.

The second bridge is harder to find. A stone wall doesn’t stand right next to the river in plain view. Blount walked through the woods, high-stepping weeds and fallen limbs. It took a couple tries, but then he found a steel girder sticking up in the dirt. Then there were two more of them. A 5-foot-high stone wall, nearly camouflaged by the wilderness, then appeared.

A wall of sandstone is set back in the woods by the Oak Orchard River. Blount thinks it was used to hold up a bridge about a century ago.

Blount suspects this one dates from the late 1800s to early 1900s. There are other stone walls nearby that once held up this bridge that connected Park Avenue to Clark Mills Road. The walls, which tower about 12 feet high and remain solid sandstone structures, are off the beaten path.

“I’ve brought people down here who have lived here their whole life and they didn’t know this was here,” Blount said.

Blount used to venture along the river, trying to catch fish. Now he prefers to go with his camera and very little modern technology.

Nature has reclaimed much of the area around a former bridge in the woods of Waterport.

“This is a great place to go exploring,” Blount said.

Orleans Hub plans to post historical photos of the trestle and the bridges in the future. We get a lot of feedback on the “Vintage Orleans” photos. However, history is more fun to discover on foot. The Hub hopes to share more adventures about local history.