Historic Riverside Bridge to be repurposed as event setting and trail connection at Ozark Mill
New location honors the bridge’s original home on the river
Historic photo of Ozark, Missouri’s Riverside Bridge in its original location near the iconic Ozark Mill. The bridge will be restored and relocated back to the area as part of ongoing restoration efforts (photo Courtesy of Christian County Library).
OZARK, Mo. – The historic Riverside Bridge, an iconic structure on the Finley River in Ozark, Missouri that dates back more than 100 years, will find a new home downstream as part of the Ozark Mill development. The restored bridge will serve as a one-of-a-kind event setting and trail connection from the Mill over the river to the recently-announced coffee and ice cream shop leading to Finley River Park and the historic downtown square.
Originally built in 1909, the Riverside Bridge was initially located next to the Ozark Mill. After a few years, however, craftsmen determined the bridge was not wide enough to serve that location and it was relocated to its current site about one-and-a-half miles away. There, it attracted local entrepreneur Howard Garrison who selected the site in the 1920s for the Riverside Inn, an infamous local restaurant famed for its fried chicken and bootlegged liquor.
One of the few remaining bridges of its kind, the Riverside Bridge was deemed unusable from flood damage and has been closed since July 2015. When plans called to destroy the bridge in the aftermath of the flood, area residents partnered with community officials to find a new home and preserve the structure through the not-for-profit Save the Riverside Bridge initiative.
After reviewing multiple submissions, the Ozark Special Road District selected the nearby Ozark Mill site, which is currently being restored and developed by noted conservationist and Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris. As part of the partnership, Morris and Bass Pro Shops will restore, relocate and install the bridge alongside the Mill pending Army Corps of Engineers approval. The new home for the bridge is in the same location where the infamous “Chadwick Flyer” railroad once crossed the Finley.
The bridge will complement other dining and entertainment spaces at the Mill, and the public will have access to the bridge when it is not in use for special events and activities.
The City of Ozark has plans to link the bridge to its former home with a new section of trail, a portion of which was previously donated by Bass Pro Shops. The replacement for the Riverside Bridge is planned to include a bike lane, which is part of the city’s vision to develop Ozark as a destination for biking and walkability.
“We are extremely grateful for the work of Ozark resident Kris Dryer and other passionate community members involved in saving this landmark. The Riverside Bridge represents an important link between the past and the future,” said Johnny’s daughter Megan Morris, who is actively involved in the Ozark Mill restoration project. “We intend to honor its rich history and celebrate its remarkable legacy of connecting people to community and to the Finley River.”
The bridge is expected to be moved to its new location by the end of the year and installed following a review with the Army Corps of Engineers. The Ozark Mill is nearing its final stages of preliminary planning, with further plans and details to be announced very soon. The vision calls for a variety of visitor amenities including historical tours, dining, event space and enhanced riverfront access to help connect more people to the Finley River.