Prior to 1987, the only access to Mud Island was via the monorail
and pedestrian bridge that was built in 1982. The city desired to
develop the north end of Mud Island, so an automobile bridge was
built. It is an extension of Auction Road, and it is named after
A. W. Willis Jr., a famous black attorney who practiced in Memphis
for many years. Once this bridge was opened to traffic, developers
started to build housing on Mud Island. This area has become a
neighborhood that attracts younger upscale residents, partly due to
the land prices being very high compared to the rest of Memphis.
The Willis bridge has three steel girder spans flanked by a shorter
concrete girder span on each end of the structure. The center span
of the bridge crosses a back-channel of the Mississippi River. This
channel was once part of the Wolf River. That river was diverted
in 1960 to flow north of Mud Island rather than east of the island.
This bridge features two sidewalks that are protected from vehicular
traffic using concrete barriers. This appears to be the southern-most
bridge to cross any part of the Mississippi River that has sidewalks
that are open to the public.
The photo above is a view of the traffic deck while traveling westbound
towards the Willis Bridge. The photo below is a view of the south face
of the bridge as seen from a parking lot near downtown Memphis on the
west side of the river.
The photo above is the bridge deck while traveling eastbound towards the
bridge. The photo below is the south face of the bridge as seen from the
access road on the west side of Mud Island. The southern part of the island
features tourist attractions, and the north end of the island is a housing
development. The center section of the island has not yet been developed.