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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Hernando De Soto Bridge
I-40 Mississippi River Crossing At Memphis
Memphis, Tennessee

Hernando De Soto Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI: 79I00400001.
• Location: River Mile 736.6.
• River Elevation: 187 Feet.
• Highway: I-40.
• Daily Traffic Count: 35,000 (2003).
• Bridge Type: Double Arch Truss Suspended Deck.
• Length: 19,535 Feet Overall, 900 Foot Main Spans.
• Width: 90 Feet, 6 Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: Two 870 Foot Mississippi River Channels,
300 Foot Wolf Harbor Channel.
• Height Above Water: 109 Feet.
• Date Built: Opened August 1972.
Folks from Memphis are so proud of living in the Big-M that they built their newest bridge in the shape of a giant letter M. Nothing screams Memphis! quite the way the Hernando De Soto bridge does. The result is one of the most interesting spans to cross the mighty river. From a distance, it look thin and frail, yet up close, you realize what a huge monster of a structure it is. The bridge was lit a few years back, so Memphis has a night time light show attraction as well as a signature bridge.

An interesting feature of the river is that both channels under the main bridge spans are open for river navigation. While the east channel is part of the normal 9 foot navigation channel, the west channel can be used during periods of high water.

The Hernando De Soto bridge was closed for 9 hours on August 27, 2007, for an inspection after a sag was noticed in the roadway. A construction project had been underway to do a seismic retrofit to help the bridge withstand an earthquake from the nearby New Madrid Fault. Workers returned to the site that morning to find that a pier on the west side of the bridge settled by 4 inches. Fortunately, this bridge is built with a redundant design, so it did not collapse. Inspectors found that the bridge deck was still adequately supported by other piers, so they reopened the structure.

The bridge is named after Hernando de Soto, a Spanish explorer who lived from 1496 to 1542. De Soto lead an expedition to the land that would become the southeastern region of the United States. His party became the first Europeans to see the Mississippi River on May 8, 1541. It is unknown if De Soto was the first European to see the muddy Mississippi, but someone in his party certainly had that honor.

The photo above is a view of the main truss spans from a farm field located southwest of the bridge on the Arkansas side of the Mississippi River. The photo below is a view of the south face of the river spans as seen from Mud Island.


Hernando De Soto Bridge
Hernando De Soto Bridge
These two photos are views from the Memphis side of the river. The photo above is looking northwest towards the bridge from the Visitor Center near the monorail. The photo below is a similar view from a parking lot off of Fulton Street just north of the Visitor Center.

Hernando De Soto Bridge
Hernando De Soto Bridge
These two photos show a typical river crossing heading eastbound into Memphis. The photo below is crossing the concrete girder approach spans on the Arkansas side of the river. The photo above is passing through the truss span. The Tennessee state line sign is hung near the midpoint of the truss.

Hernando De Soto Bridge
Hernando De Soto Bridge
These two photos are views of the bridge as seen from Tom Lee Park, located on the Memphis riverfront. The photo above is a profile view of the river spans. The photo below is a close view of the truss spans.

Hernando De Soto Bridge
Hernando De Soto Bridge
These two photos are views from the west end of the bridge on the Arkansas side of the river. The photo above is looking down the south face of the bridge. The photo below is a view looking east between the two sets of pillars that support the concrete girder spans.

Hernando De Soto Bridge

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