Old bridges do more than just span rivers. They provide an important historical connection between the hopes and dreams of the people who built them and those who continue to benefit from their use today. Many of Montana's historic highway bridges are symbols of the cooperative spirit that led to economic and social stability throughout the Big Sky Country for over a century. Other bridges, such as those built during the Great Depression, are physical reminders of significant periods in American history and tell stories about the breadth of Montana's transportation past. In addition, these bridges reflect both the best and worst in engineering techniques and serve as testaments to the science of practical bridge design, ranging from the aesthetically delightful Fort Benton Bridge to the more mundane Fred Robinson Bridge in the Missouri Breaks country.
In the modern era, where many people seem to be in a hurry to get where they're going as fast as possible, old bridges can be obsolete nuisances that need to make way for modern conveyances. There is, however, a growing group of preservationists who see them as symbols of an earlier time that are worthy of saving. Today, Montana's historic bridges are a visible, rarely appreciated, and fast disappearing part of the state's historic landscape. Yet the stories they tell about Montana's complicated social history are important to understanding the dynamics of Montana's development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and reflect the optimism many people had, and have, for the state's future.