Visit the Suwannee River Trestle

a red steel bridge span extends over a river in the morning light

The Nature Coast State Trail is a three-spoked bike and recreation path located in the middle of rural north-central Florida. Close in proximity to both Manatee and Fanning Springs State Parks, the ideal mode of transportation for this path is by bicycle or horseback. This slower rate of speed is ideal for taking in the multitude of natural, cultural and historical sites that the trail has to offer.

One of the most significant of these sites is the historic Suwannee River railroad bridge, or Drew Bridge, a red steel span built in the early 1900s to shuttle people and goods across one of the largest rivers in Florida. At one time the 1,335-foot bridge operated with a 150-foot plate girder swing span, allowing steam boats to pass underneath. The swing span was manually rotated with a key placed in the gear above the round pier; and horses or donkeys were used to help open the bridge. Today, with most river traffic being kayaks and canoes, the swing span is no longer necessary, but visitors can still enjoy the sight of a small craft making its way down the river.

The trestle was designed and engineered by the American Bridge Co., operating as a part of the U.S. Steel Corp. from 1901 to 1987. Today it allows trail users to cross the Suwannee River and is a favorite among park visitors for photos and appreciating its history. You don’t even have to be riding a bike to see it; the short walk from nearby Old Town is a must-do for any visitor and is accessible to everyone.

Wildlife is commonly seen on the trail, from fleet-footed white-tailed deer to gobbling turkeys and shy gopher tortoises. As you make your journey to the trestle, make sure you stop at one of the benches nearby that overviews the Suwannee River. An occasional leap of a large gulf sturgeon will thrill anyone lucky enough to see its scales briefly glimmering in the sunlight before it plummets back to the water. During cooler months you may miss the sturgeon but instead catch sight of manatees in the river below.

A visit to the Nature Coast State Trail and the Suwannee River railroad trestle is essential for any trail, architecture or history lover, and is fun for everyone. See this iconic site in the Real Florida.