Boulder Bridge in Rock Creek Park

Boulder Bridge is one of the oldest bridges in Rock Creek Park—so many others from the park's early years have been washed out in floods and replaced with newer ones. This one, however, was clearly made to last. Built in 1902, it adheres to Romantic ideas that were in vogue with the Park Service at that time, that park fixtures should look "rustic" and take us back to a time and place far away. The bridge indeed does an outstanding job of both standing out architecturally and simultaneously blending in well with its surroundings. Technically, it is a Melan reinforced concrete bridge with a boulder facing; it spans 80 feet and rises 12 feet. The use of the large boulders on the bridge is quite unique.

The rounded boulders used in the bridge are similar to ones found in the area. Col. Lansing H. Beach of the Army Corps of Engineers, Secretary of the Board of Control of Rock Creek Park and namesake of Beach Drive, is credited with the idea that a bridge made from natural boulders would work well in this location. Supposedly the extra large boulders resulted from a misunderstanding by the contractor. The contract called for "man-sized" stone, which meant stone that could be easily handled by a stone mason. Instead, the contractor went and found life-sized boulders. When Beach arrived at the site and discovered the work underway with the large boulders, he liked the way they looked. Although gathered within several miles of the park, the boulders did not come from the immediate vicinity of the bridge or from within Rock Creek Park. The finally-crafted bridge cost a total of $17,635.77 to build and clearly has held up exceptionally well through the years.

A recent view of the bridge on a summer afternoon.


  1. Loove me that bridge!
    Thanks for the info.
    See Ames Gate Lodge by HH Richardson for the Grandaddy of this look. Shout out to ma main man Olmstead too!

  2. Interesting history. Thanx for the info.

  3. My uncle once told me that he saw convict labor used to build that bridge...does anyone know if this is true?


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