Bellamy Bridge spans the Chipola River a few miles north of Marianna, Florida. It is one of the most significant cultural and architectural landmarks in the state and was also in the path of the western eye wall of Hurricane Michael, a category 4 storm that devastated the eastern Florida Panhandle, Southwest Georgia and parts of Southeast Alabama.
The historic steel-frame bridge was built in 1914 under contract to the Jackson County Board of County Commissioners to replace a series of earlier wooden structures. The county still owns the actual bridge today. The Chipola River, meanwhile, is a water of the state. The land on the west side of the river, where the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail was built in 2013-2014, is supervised by the Northwest Florida Water Management District. The eastern approach, now closed to the public, is the property of several private owners.
Often called “Florida’s most haunted bridge,” Bellamy Bridge was named one of the state’s top destinations in Doug Alderson’s widely-acclaimed 2016 book A New Guide to Old Florida Attractions. Its history was the focus of Dale Cox’s 2012 book The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge: 10 Ghosts & Monsters from Jackson County, Florida, received its first film treatment in Brett Gerking’s 2015 production Spirits in the Swampand is the topic of a beautiful folk song on the CD Ernest Toole Sings Stories Of Old Florida: The Final Tour.
The ongoing search for the ghost of Elizabeth Bellamy, who is said to haunt the bridge, was spotlighted in Two Egg TV’s production: The Ghost of Bellamy Bridge. You can watch it at the bottom of this page.
The old bridge has survived many hurricanes and tropical storms in its history. It was still there when the waters of the massive 1929 flood went down. But did Michael’s 150 mile per hour winds finally prove to much for it?
Just learning the answer to that question proved to be an adventure. TwoEgg.TV and Marianna-based photographer Rhonda Dykes first tried to reach the bridge three weeks ago by crawling over, around and through the downed trees and half-mile of debris that now block the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail. The damage combined with flood waters from the Chipola River proved too much and the first attempt ended in failure.
TwoEgg.TV staff returned to Bellamy Bridge on Sunday, November 18, and this time succeeded in reaching the historic structure thanks help from historian Dale Cox and permission from a private landowner. It took over an hour of crawling, climbing and sweating to get near the historic structure but finally everyone involved was thrilled by the site of the old bridge standing strong above the downed trees left behind by Hurricane Michael.
A closer inspection revealed that the old bridge survived Hurricane Michael with barely a scratch. Fallen trees landed all around each end, but not a single one hit the bridge itself. Even the safety barrier placed at the end of the Bellamy Bridge Heritage Trail is intact. Another exciting moment came when a centuries old cypress tree near the western end of the bridge was found still standing, alive and well. The tree was standing when Spanish explorers crossed the Chipola River at the future bridge site more than 300 years ago and witnessed the true story of Samuel and Elizabeth Bellamy.
Volunteers will soon begin the long, difficult job of clearing and reopening the heritage trail. If you would like to help, please contact Rachael by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (850) 693-1547. The Northwest Florida Water Management District requires that our volunteers submit the proper paperwork and receive volunteer identification cards. We will be happy to help with that process.
Be sure to click the play button below to see video of the bridge as it appears today, still standing after Hurricane Michael:
Until the trail can be cleared and repaired, the bridge is inaccessible to the public except by water on the Chipola River. It will take months to reopen it so that visitors can safely visit the historic bridge. The good news, though, is that the popular landmark is still standing and Bellamy Bridge will reopen to visitors sometime in 2019!
Click the play button below to enjoy Two Egg TV’s search for the ghost of Elizabeth Bellamy: