That’s Tales from Dale, which should not be confused with Dale’s Pale Ale from Oskar Blues, a brewery that is credited with jump-starting the microbrewery canning revolution. I happened to visit Oskar Blues long before their cans ever reached the East Cost, a bit of zymurgy trivia that makes me happy. I’ve now gone completely down the rabbit hole on a tangent so let’s get this article back on track.
Dale Sanderson(1) of US Ends.com contacted me recently with a couple of unusual observations. Have you seen his site before? He explains its purpose as striving to "provide photos and descriptions of current and historic US highway endpoints, and to provide maps that show each US highway in the context of its ‘route family’." Thus, Dale has solid geo-oddity credentials and I’m inclined to take note when something catches his attention. My curiosity piqued when he mentioned the anomalies. I didn’t know about them ahead of time so his discoveries were new to me and much appreciated.
Flickr by paige_eliz via Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license
Recently 12MC focused on Oklahoma City and a pattern of growth that resulted in its borders sprawling across four counties. Dale drilled down and noticed that there were several smaller towns completely embedded within the boundaries of Oklahoma City. Upon further investigation he discovered that one of those embedded towns, Bethany, had an even smaller town, Woodlawn Park, completely embedded within it. Like a matryoshka — the famous Russian nesting doll — Woodlawn Park nests within Bethany which nests within Oklahoma City. It’s an enclave within an enclave.
View OKC, Bethany and Woodlawn Park in a larger map
How did this odd situation arise? Let’s start with Bethany, a town that incorporated in 1910. As described in the Oklahoma Historical Society "Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Bethany "continued as a small, rural town dependent upon support from surrounding farm lands" from its founding until the 1940′s. The historic Route 66 ran through Bethany so the town benefited from transient visitors to a degree although it didn’t start growing rapidly until the nation began to mobilize for the Second World War.
The Society’s Encyclopedia also discussed Woodlawn Park which incorporated in 1952. That happened specifically to avoid Bethany’s expansion and encroachment. Woodlawn Park is a tiny rectangle of about eighty-one acres. Nonetheless it’s an incorporated town run by an elected board of trustees. I went into Street View and saw houses and only houses within its boundaries. There didn’t appear to be a single businesses within the town (unless they’re home-based businesses and hidden from view). Clearly it’s a bedroom community. Woodlawn Park also doesn’t operate any of its own city services. The Encyclopedia notes that services are provided under arrangement either from Bethany or Oklahoma City.
Eventually Oklahoma City grew around Bethany, which had already grown around Woodlawn Park, resulting in the unusual situation Dale observed. I don’t know if this is a unique situation so I’ll turn it over to the 12MC audience. Is anyone aware of other matryoshka towns?
Dale also mentioned McKissick Island, Nebraska
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McKissick Island is one of those places where the Missouri River shifted and left part of a state on the "wrong" side of the river. There are lots of places just like that along the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, however this one is a practical exlave with a twist. The island sits fairly close to the Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska (IAMONE) tripoint. If people want to drive to McKissick Island from the rest of Nebraska, they have to drive through two other states first, Iowa and Missouri.
Dale said he’d heard about the oddity from someone else. I hadn’t seen it before so I’ll still give him credit in my mind.
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I’m not sure how I missed McKissick Island’s practical exclave. I used to travel near there very frequently until a few years ago. I blame it on Carter Lake, which is just a little farther north next to Omaha. I used to take great delight when I picked family up at the airport simply so I could drive them through that little stranded neck of Iowa.
Thank you, Dale. Please keep the great oddities coming!
Mark your calendars: The much anticipated re-launching of Basement Geographer happens on June 1!
(1)12MC does not generally post the full names of its readers. I’m making an exception for Dale because he uses his full name both on his 12MC comments and on his personal website.
An unwary visitor arriving on the Twelve Mile Circle through some random search once again provided fodder for an article topic. The query forwarded by search software said: "name of the county, state and cities starts with s?" Usually this means someone is trying to complete an online geography contest or perhaps an old-school crossword puzzle. The answer would be somewhere within the sum of all towns starting with S in Saluda, Spartanburg, and Sumter Counties in South Carolina and starting with S in Sanborn, Shannon, Spink, Stanley and Sully Counties in South Dakota. For example, Stateburg, South Carolina would fit the definition. It’s in Sumter County. S-S-S. There are probably dozens of possibilities. Can we go home now?
Nothing is every that easy on 12MC. I decided to up-the-ante a couple of different ways. First, I considered only those towns or cities that were also the county seats, and I expanded the universe to all fifty states. It was a manual process so I can’t guarantee the results. I could have overlooked something.
First I created the set of states and counties that began with the same letter (154 instances). Then I checked each of their county seats. That produced 45-ish results. Maybe. What is the county seat of New York County; is it New York City? What do we do with Oklahoma City knowing that portions of it extend into multiple counties? Can one of Virginia’s weird independent cities have a "county" seat? I included them anyway. Others might disagree.
Some examples were better than others. I created a scale of impressiveness based upon the results I complied. They are included in a shared spreadsheet you should feel free to review, or not.
- Outstanding: All started with the same letter and all three were different words
- Technically Correct, Plus: Same letter, repeated word, plus a portmanteau, and I love portmanteaus so that should count for something extra: Milaca in Mille Lacs County, MN. Yes they threw an extra "a" onto it but let’s not split hairs.
- Technically Correct: Same letter with repeated words. Conejos in Conejos Co., Colorado and Hilo in Hawaii Co., Hawaii were good examples.
- Lacking Originality: OK/OK/OK/OK (throwing in the state capital for good measure too) and NY/NY/NY.
- No: The large preponderance of instances. The county seat started with a different letter than the county
- Double No: Very rare examples of counties with two seats and by the way neither of them started with the same letter as the county and state. Punks.
My interests focused primarily on the "outstanding" examples, of which I found only 7 occurrences amongst the 3,143 counties and county-equivalents in the United States.
(1) GGG: Gibson, Glascock County, Georgia
Gibson referred to Judge William Gibson who shelled out the cash to build the local courthouse.
Glascock (map) was General Thomas Glascock, a Congressman and a veteran of the War of 1812 and the Seminole War of 1817. He was apparently able to conceive at least one child in spite of his name.
(2) MMM: Mt. Clemens, Macomb County, Michigan
Christian Clemens Grave, Mt. Clemens, Michigan
Christian Clemens first surveyed and then popularized the town he named for himself, Mount Clemens. He’s still quite revered in Mt. Clemens according to lots of material I found on the Intertubes, and he’s buried at Clemens Park in town. One can see his grave marker in Street View without too much effort.
Another War of 1812 officer provided a name for Macomb: U.S. General Alexander Macomb, who later went on to become the commanding General of the U.S. Army although that happened after the county was named for him.
(3) NNN: Nelson, Nuckolls County, Nebraska
How often does a place get named after someone’s middle name? That’s apparently the case with Nelson: Horatio Nelson Wheeler. I guess one could also claim it gave homage to Lord Nelson in a roundabout way too. Mr. Wheeler provided the land for the town and had no larger claim to fame.
Nuckolls were the Nuckolls Brothers, Lafayette and Stephen, who were early Nebraska pioneers, legislators, and businessmen (map).
(4) OOO: Okemah, Okfuskee County, Oklahoma
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Okemah derived from Chief Okemah of the Kickapoo tribe. Linguistically it may translate from a Creek word for "person of high stature" or something similar.
Okeham is know best as the birthplace of Woody Gutherie. A photograph of his home is listed on the Library of Congress website. I don’t know about its copyright status so feel free to go there and view it on your own.
A number of websites including woody100.com were created in 2012 to commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of the folk singer’s birth. It used a great Woody Guthrie quote to describe Okemah:
Okemah was one of the singingest, square dancingest, drinkingest, yellingest, preachingest, walkingest, talkingest, laughingest, cryingest, shootingest, fist fightingest, bleedingest, gamblingest, gun, club and razor carryingest of our ranch towns and farm towns, because it blossomed out into one of our first Oil Boom Towns.
Okfuskee also had a Native American derivation. The Okfuskee people were part of the Muskoke/Muskogee (Creek) confederacy in Alabama prior to their removal to Oklahoma.
(5) WWW: West Bend, Washington County, Wisconsin
Finally, an easy one. Washington County (map) honored George Washington. West Bend referenced a western bend in the Milwaukee River where the town was founded.
(6) WWW: Wautoma, Waushara County, Wisconsin
Then, the next example returned to a Native American theme. Waushara translated to "big fox."
Wautoma might mean "good earth" or "good life" which is an improvement over it’s original name, Shumwaytown. The most fascinating geographic feature of Wautoma is that it’s composed of three major, separate non-contiguous areas, and several smaller parcels (map). There’s no truth to the rumor that Wautoma translated into "town who’s boundaries got thrown into a blender."
(7) WWW: Worland, Washakie County, Wyoming
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Worland was named for "Charles Henry Worland, who in 1900 built a dugout saloon and stage station on the west side of the Bighorn River"
Chief Washakie was a leader of the Eastern Shoshone Indians.
Flickr recently increased its storage to one terabyte per account. I’m in the process of uploading something like 10,000 photographs in full size and I don’t think I’ll hit even one percent!
Plans change. I gamble when I choose to mull over a thought and allow it to percolate in my mind. Sometimes the delay results in a better article. Other times, ideas not acted upon decisively will be overtaken by events.
Loyal reader "Rhodent" and I were communicating by email about a potential offshoot of "NOT as the Crow Flies." The contest would have focused on the greatest time or distance differences between walking and driving to a common point, where walking would have provided a distinct advantage. Ariel Dybner posted a comment just as we were structuring the query.
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Ariel found a location in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the "one-way twisty Rich Mountain Road out of Cades Cove." The drive would last 1 hour and 23 minutes. The walk would take 21 seconds. Checkmate. Abundant kudos to Ariel, and well played, and for being prescient enough to claim victory before we ever began. Now it’s back to the drawing board for 12MC though.
I decided to keep the pedestrians and ditch the automobiles. Where are places that motorized vehicles cannot go? Trails, certainly, although I’m on a bridge fixation at the moment. I’ll focus on some impressive pedestrian-only bridges, also commonly known as footbridges.
IMPRESSIVE PEDESTRIAN BRIDGES
Notice that I didn’t use the title "longest" pedestrian bridges. Longest is surprisingly subjective and it abuts several definitional issues that I’m choosing to deflect. If one simply must put a fence around the topic then I guess Guinness World Records would be suitable: "On 3 October 2009, the 2.06-km (6,767-ft, or 1.28-mile) Poughkeepsie Bridge (also known as the Walkway Over the Hudson State National Park) in New York, USA, was re-opened to the public as the world’s longest pedestrian bridge. Hornibrook Bridge across Bramble Bay in Queensland, Australia, was longer but demolition started in the summer of 2010."
Let’s go there.
Walkway Over the Hudson; Poughkeepsie, New York, USA
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Guinness mentioned the salient points. I’ll fill in some of the details.
Walkway Over the Hudson began service as a railroad bridge spanning between Poughkeepsie and Lloyd in New York, crossing the Hudson River to connect with the larger rail network. Originally it carried a less romantic name, the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge. It opened to rail traffic in 1889, served as a major corridor for passengers and freight, and closed after a fire in 1974. I’m not sure how a steel and iron truss bridge catches fire. I’ll assume there were wooden elements — perhaps track ties that kept the rails at a proper gauge — and offer the civil engineering historians in the audience an opportunity to ponder likely scenarios. It caught fire. It closed.
The bridge stood as a decaying hulk, a metaphor trapped in a post-industrial world, until a group of citizens reinvented it as a pedestrian park. They formed the nonprofit Walkway Over the Hudson to secure public and private funding for an adequate restoration. The bridge reopened in 2009 as the linear Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park, a dizzying 212 feet (65 m) above the Hudson River.
Walnut Street Bridge; Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
SOURCE: Flickr by fdtate via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license
Check a search engine for the longest pedestrian bridges and the Walnut Street Bridge (map) will land near the top of the results. It spans 2,376 feet (724 m) with a deck 100 feet (30 m) above the Tennessee River. That’s quite impressive although it’s nowhere near the magnitude of the Walkway Over the Hudson.
A website with the creative name East Tennessee River Valley Geotourism describes the history:
The Walnut Street Bridge is Tennessee’s oldest non-military highway bridge still in use today, restored and revitalized as a pedestrian bridge and linear park. In only a generation, The Bridge has become the centerpiece, and a vital connector of Chattanooga’s riverfront renaissance… Since 1978, when it was closed to traffic for safety reasons after serving Chattanooga for 87 years, the Walnut Street Bridge sat disabled, deteriorating, dormant, and yet another reminder of the city’s decaying downtown. By the late 1980s, the city had taken steps to demolish the downtrodden bridge, but lacked the funding.
Geotourism. I might have to steal that term.
A private organization, The Parks Foundation stepped-in and saved the structure. The 1890 relic reopened as a pedestrian-only bridge in 1993. The deck was changed from asphalt to wood planking in 2010, and added to the charm. Where would we be without private nonprofit groups and foundations to rescue our historic landmarks?
Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge; Omaha, Nebraska – Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA
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Aficionados of the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge remark that it’s the longest footbridge that spans between two states. One must find superlatives where one can find them, I suppose. Even so it spans 3,000 feet (914 m) across the Missouri River with a deck of 60 feet (18 m), and that’s mighty impressive.
There are two points that intrigue me. First, this is a modern bridge (opened 2008) designed specifically as a footbridge. It is only fifteen feet wide which is sufficient clearance for legs and bicycles. It will never carry motorized vehicles. In that sense it reminds me of the Sundial Bridge although it’s more than four times longer. Second, the builders constructed a marker on the state line so that visitors can show-off when they’re standing in two states at the same time.
There’s a third element and I have mixed feelings about it. The walkway was built with Federal dollars so it’s a shining example of an earmark, or should one prefer a more derogatory term, pork. They named it for the Senator who secured the funding. I’m not pointing a finger at him personally because all politicians regardless of affiliation do the same thing.(1) I’ll simply note that this bridge cost on the order of $20 million footed by taxpayers living primarily outside of Nebraska and Iowa. I’d contrast that with the DIY approach used by nonprofits and foundations mentioned previously. It’s a beautiful structure that probably adds to the ambiance of the waterfront, maybe leading to economic growth and new tax revenues, so maybe it all works out in the end? Maybe.
SkyTrail; Outlook, Saskatchewan, Canada
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0) license
SkyTrail "Canada’s Longest Pedestrian Bridge" (map) represents another claim on the continuum of Internet glory. It began as a railway trestle, 3,000 feet (914 m) long and 150 feet (46 m) above the South Saskatchewan River. The first Canadian Pacific Railway trains rumbled over in 1912 and continued to use it until 1987. It was converted to pedestrian use in 2003 and forms a part of the Trans-Canada Trail.
I like the name of the town, Outlook. The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan explains, "the railway named the location Outlook for its spectacular vantage over the river valley." I need to walk that bridge someday.
Hornibrook Bridge (R.I.P.), Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
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I’m not even going to comment on the unusual name of the bridge. It reminds me of the old joke about the similarity between cheap beer and a canoe.
Once it was considered the longest pedestrian bridge in the world, longer even than the Walkway Over the Hudson. While it existed, it spanned 8,806 feet (1.67 miles, 2.684 kilometres) across Bramble Bay, a solid couple thousand feet longer than the current claimant. Hornibrook Bridge was razed recently so that’s all moot now. It had been a popular attraction for fitness and fishing from its 1979 closure to automotive traffic to its demolition. Alas, no more.
Pedestrians were offered a convenient alternative and it always lacked a certain dramatic visual impact anyway, so that may have lessened the blow. The Houghton Highway runs immediately to the east and a second bridge was added to the highway in 2010. It included a protected pedestrian lane separated from vehicular traffic by a concrete barrier.
Google Street View coverage features an interesting period during the timeline, January 2010 (view). Catch it while it lasts, it’s destined to be overwritten someday. Currently, as of the publication of this article, it shows Hornibrook prior to its demolition plus the new Houghton Highway lanes (the Ted Smout Memorial Bridge) under construction and nearly completed. It’s easy to see why Brisbane added the new bridge — Street View shows two-way traffic on a three lane bridge, without any lane barriers to separate traffic coming at opposite directions and only an overhead crossbar with green and red lights to prevent head-on collisions.
Smout is amazingly close to Smoot. It must be a bridge thing.
(1)Even 12MC’s possible secret admirer does that. Go back to the article that started it all if you’re unfamiliar with this long-running 12MC gag.