In 1780, the Overmountain Men crossed Choates Ford in the Holston River. From there, they marched down Old Watauga Road on a journey where they would later defeat more than 1,000 British loyalists. Thomas Jefferson coined this event as “The turning of the tide for the American Revolution.” Just 300 yards upstream, you can take in the same views the Overmountain Men did, from the Bluff City Swinging Bridge.
Photo By: http://www.appstate.edu/~boyegr/boyfamily/index.html
The Boy and Boye families settled in Bluff City in the 1790s, where their family house can be seen in the photo above. The swinging bridge was built in 1916 and crossed the river to the Rockhold Church. The original bridge lasted until around the 1960s.
The newly reconstructed swinging bridge is known as the “Nellie Pratt Memorial Swinging Bridge.” In 2005, the Sullivan County Commission named the bridge after Nellie Pratt who ran the nearby Pratt’s store. Nellie advocated for restoration of the bridge.
The bridge closed down in 2017 due to significant damages to the decking structure. After repairs in July of 2018, Sullivan County announced that the Bluff City Swinging Bridge was officially reopened to the public.
There are trail markers on both sides of the river banks marking the ford area where the Overmountain Men were able to cross a shallow section of the Holston River. This historic crossing is located on the opposite side of the railroad trestle. On the eastern side of the river, the public has access to the adjoining Patriot’s Trail where the crossing was located. You can follow sidewalk blazes with “OVNHT” marking the trail approximately 0.6 miles, ending near the Bluff City Middle School.
The Holston River provides beautiful views on either side of the Bluff City Swinging Bridge. If you go at a good time, you can catch the train crossing over the river across the way. Take the family for a fun outing, learn about the area’s history, and don’t forget to take a few selfies. Visitors often bring a lock to place on the gates of the bridge, where children and lovers can keep a fond memory of the memorial bridge.
While You’re There
If fishing is your thing, you won’t want to skip fly fishing on the SOHO that runs under the bridge in Bluff City.
Article & Photography By:
Alicia Bynum, AdventurePickle.com, for Northeast Tennessee Tourism