Swing Bridge (Belize)
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A touring destination and historical landmark of Belize, it is the oldest swing bridge in Central America and one of the few manually operated swing bridge in the world still in function. The Maritime Museum of Belize is located nearby.
Constructed in Liverpool, England, and brought to Belize City by a United States company in New Orleans, it was built to allow sailing fishing boats with tall masts to pass the bridge and continue up river to offer supplies and services to the city. The construction of the new bridge replaced several wooden bridges that had been built by locals during the mid-19th century by locals to cross the Haulover Creek. The Haulover Creek is actually the inlet for the Belize River but was so called because cattlemen had to pull their cattle across the creek with ropes ("hauling over the creek"). The bridge was constructed in 1922 and installation was finished in 1923. It was manually opened by four men cranking by hand. The bridge was swung twice a day, once in the morning and again in the evening, to allow boat traffic through.
The bridge was damaged in the category 5 1931 hurricane that hit the city. It was said to have moved into the street. Again damaged by Hurricane Hattie in 1961 and by Hurricane Mitch in 1998, repairs were made after Mitch and further restoration was done in the first decade of the 21st century. Talks were made about automating the bridge however locals have balk at this realizing it would take away a major tourist destination in the city.
The bridge requires a minimum of four men to crank it by hand until it is parallel with the river. After river traffic has passed, it is hand-cranked again until it has been returned to its perpendicular position across the river. Traffic is halted for well over an hour before the process is completed. Since 2007, the bridge is only manually opened by special request as river traffic is not as heavy as before.
The Belize City Swing Bridge was shown in the 1980 film, The Dogs of War, starring Christopher Walken. Scenes for the fictional African Country of Zangaro were shot in Belize City, Belize. The bridge was positioned parallel to the river and then manually swung back into position in the scene.
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