Mystery Bridge Nr. 160: The Bridge at Caminito Del Rey in Spain

All photos courtesy of Rafa at puentesyestructuras via Instagram

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Our 160th Pic of the Week gives you a little refresher on the term queen post truss. A queen post is a tension member in a truss that can span longer openings than a king post truss. A king post uses one central supporting post, whereas the queen post truss uses two. In simpler terms, a queen post has an upper chord between two diagonal endposts that runs parallel to the deck.  Queen posts were common for covered bridges, whereas for metal pony truss spans, one can find them for shorter spans going up to no more than 60 feet (23 meters).

Okabena Creek Bridge in Jackson County, MN. Photo taken in 2009.
Montgomery Covered Bridge in Vermont. Example of a covered bridge using queen post trusses. Photo taken by Richard Doody in 1990.

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And with that knowledge in mind, we go to our 160th mystery bridge, which takes us to Spain. Specifically, the state of Malaga and the el Caminito Del Rey. Known as the King’s Little Path, the El Caminito del Rey is a walkway, pinned along the steep walls of a narrow gorge in El Chorro, near Ardales in the province of Málaga, Spain. The name derives from the original name of Camino del Rey (King’s Pathway), abbreviated locally to el caminito. It is known as one of the most dangerous walkways in the world as it is known for its narrowness and dangerously high altitudes. The walkway was built in 1905 and has a length of eight kilometers and several high bridges. Yet the views of the cliffs and the waterfalls below are splendid! It was rehabilitated in 2015.

This bridge is one of the high crossings you will find on the Caminito. It’s one that can be seen as a steel beam bridge in the distance. Yet up close, it is clearly a queen post deck truss bridge, but built in a very unusual style. The beams support a set of wire beams connected with eyebars. Turnbuckles are found on the bottom chord underneath the bridge decking. Given its unusual design it is easy to debate whether this bridge is indeed a queen post deck truss bridge or simply a steel beam truss supported by wires. This question I will leave up to you as a reader to decide and debate about with your fellow colleagues.

Given its age and appearance, plus the fact that pin-connecting truss bridges were commonly built during that time, this bridge was probably built at the same time as the walkway itself. If it had not existed after 1905, then the cut-off date for bridge building was most likely 1915, when truss bridges with riveted connections were being introduced for crossings. Yet European truss bridges had relied more on welded trusses- truss with beams welded in with bolts- than these pin-connected truss bridges, which makes this bridge a rarity in itself. In fact, not more than 10% of all truss bridges built before 1910 were pin-connected. The rest were those with welded connections, though riveted truss bridges debuted before 1880, but didn’t dominate the bridge building scene until after 1900.

According to Rafa at puentesyestructuras, who allowed me to use his photos for this article, the bridge is closed to traffic due to structural deterioration. And as you can see in the photos, the railings only consist of a piece of wire going across. Given its location over a steep cliff, replacing the structure would be considered almost impossible unless the new bridge was constructed off-site and then hoisted down with a helicopter. Most likely, repairs and rehabilitation will be the best choice to ensure the historic structure remains in tact and in use again.

Source: User Gabirulo on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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The bridge has one key advantage: Since its reopening in 2015, the Caminito Del Rey can only be visited if and only if you reserve ahead of time. Sometimes three months are needed to take the 8km challenge in the high cliffs. Those trespassing without a permit face fines in the tens of thousands of Euros.  This restriction in the number of tourists is useful not only to preserve the integrity of the walkway and the bridges, like this one, but also for safety reasons. Nevertheless, those with a fear of heights should avoid taking this route and rather get some gorgeous photos from down below or with a drone.

After all, photographing bridges at such high altitudes is only fun when you have nerves of steel and a heart of stone. Therefore, as a word of advice, if there is a more creative way of photographing bridges like this one, try from the ground first, for they are the best ones. Cameras can be replaced, lives cannot.

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Author’s note:

Many thanks to Rafa for allowing me to use his pictures for this article. If you have some information on the bridge’s construction history, feel free to state your peace in the comment section below or through the BHC on its social media pages. When debating over the type of bridge it is, keep it clean and be nice. Thank you.

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