The Alton Bridge was constructed many years after the collapse of the town of Alton. It was to carry traffic from the old postal road and Ranger patrol trail, over the Hickory Creek at a location that once was a popular ford for crossing cattle.
Alton was the original county seat of Denton, a short-lived claim to fame due to a falling water table that made potable water scarce, forcing local politicians to move to a new location in 1857. Today, Alton does not exist; not a building survives from the early days of the post-Republic conclave.
The bridge was in constant use until circa 2001, when it was replaced with a concrete and steel bridge. The State of Texas deemed it unsafe for vehicle traffic in the 1970s. This road is heavily traveled by commuters, and it was decided that a newer multi lane bridge should be put in its place. The new bridge straightens out a sharp curve which still exists on both ends of the old bridge. It was previously necessary to honk your car's horn to see if anyone was coming.
The Old Alton Bridge was included in the National Register of Historic Places, July 8, 1988. After being listed in the National Register of Historic Places and becoming part of the Elm Fork Hiking and Equestrian Trail, Old Alton inspired further preservation efforts. Two other bridges have since been listed in the National Register. The Rector Road Bridge over Clear Creek was moved from Sanger to the H. Guyer High School, where it spans an environmentally sensitive area. The pony-truss Gregory Road Bridge over Duck Creek sits at a lonely spot near the Denton-Cooke county line.
The Old Alton bridge was refurbished to carry horse and pedestrian traffic on what is now the Elm Fork Equestrian and Hiking Trail, in 1992. Today, the bridge is technically in the City of Copper Canyon, at the juction of the Pilot Knoll Trail and the Elm Fork Trail, part of the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers park system.
Locally, the bridge is known as "Goatman's Bridge".
The story is that Klansmen raided the house of the Goatman, Oscar Washburn, and killed his family after attempting to lynch him over the side. The legend says that he disappeared over the side and now attacks anyone who crosses the bridge at night in an effort to protect his family.
While the true history of the bridge is interesting, it has also gained a reputation as a haunted place for as long as local residents can remember, always being the spot that kids would flock to on Halloween night in hopes of capturing a glimpse of a ghost who traversed the area late at night. The legend says that if you go to the bridge and honk your car horn twice at midnight, the ghost’s fiery red eyes will appear on the bridge.
Denton County Master Naturalists has an ongoing project to do periodic clean up at Old Alton Bridge. One of the permanently scheduled workdays is right after Halloween.
Length of largest span: 107.9 ft.
Total length: 145.0 ft.
Deck width: 14.1 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 15.4 ft.
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