Shannon County lies in the heart of the Missouri Ozark Mountains. Route 19 winds through the county providing scenic vistas and the rivers in the area have provided recreational opportunities for more than a century. The tourism industry centers on the Current River. In 1964, over 134 miles of the upper Current River was incorporated into the Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR), the first unit of the National Park Service to protect a river.
Route 19 through Shannon County north of Eminence was constructed in the mid-1920s to improve access to the region, and to provide access to Round Spring State Park. Tourism was a booming industry in the Missouri and in the Ozarks, with tourist spending growing from $61 million in 1926 to $98 million by 1928. By 1945, Camp Zoe had been developed just up Sinking Creek, Camp Alton was just up the Current River, the Round Spring State Park was just down the road and the Round Spring Caverns had been developed.
Route 19 has a twenty-foot roadway with earth shoulders that follows the topography of the mountains and curves around natural features. Grading and excavation was done in 1926 and 1928 and it has given an aggregate surface in 1941. Route 19 was a priority after the passage of Amendment 3 in 1926 since the roadway would serve Round Spring State Park; providing good roadways to state parks was one of the goals of the amendment.
Because the highway was connecting to a state park and tourism being a major industry, the vistas provided by the roadway were a concern during the design. Views of the Current River and its tributaries and of the concrete arch bridges are provided as the road curves through the mountains.
The Sinking Creek Bridge was a 1926, five-span bridge with three 80’ open-spandrel concrete arch spans. The bridge was replaced in 2016.
The Current River Bridge is a 1924, five-span, closed-spandrel concrete arch bridge. The three main spans are 130’ and it has two 60’ approach spans. The bridge is 601’ long and 18’ wide. It has a closed railing over the abutments and a balustrade railing over the arch spans.
The Spring Valley Bridge is a 1930 bridge is a 151’ open-spandrel concrete arch main span and three concrete deck girder spans on the north end and four on the south end. The total length is 522’. The bridge has a 45-degree skew.
The Three Bridges Historic District recognizes the significance of the development of the State Park System and the roads that were built to improve access to the parks and the early promotion of recreational driving. Contributing elements of the district include the Sinking Creek Bridge, the Current River Bridge, the Spring Valley Bridge, the roadway (including right-of-way and alignment) connecting the bridges, and the views and vistas visible from Route 19.
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