Plain Sights: Cross That Bridge

As the Wissahickon Creek flows through its Philadelphia gorge, several bridges span the historic waterway in dramatic fashion, including the Thomas Mill Covered Bridge that rests deep in the park; the iconic Henry Avenue Bridge that reaches over Lincoln Drive; and the massive bridge near the creek’s mouth at the Schuylkill built by the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad (now carrying SEPTA’s Manayunk/Norristown Line).

But one bridge, the McCallum Street Bridge, is the only steel frame bridge in Wissahickon Valley Park among the park's stone, concrete and wood bridges. It survived a hurricane in 2004, which washed out three other bridges on Cresheim Creek, the Wissahickon's biggest tributary. Tall and substantial, the last vehicular bridge to span the creek is also the last one built—it opened in 1985 to replace a circa-1891 bridge. The McCallum Street Bridge features rusted weathered steel that blends harmoniously with its woodland surroundings. With a deck soaring 100 feet over the creek bed, it casts an impressive shadow on the hiking trails that lead from the neighborhoods above to the creek below. 

Cresheim Creek, named for the German village the area’s earliest settlers originated from, bubbles above ground in Springfield Township, Montgomery County, and flows southwesterly toward Devil’s Pool, where it empties into the Wissahickon. Along the way, it forges a natural boundary between Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. Only a handful of bridges cross the creek to connect the two Northwest neighborhoods: Stenton Avenue, Germantown Avenue, Cresheim Valley Road, two Chestnut Hill regional rail lines and McCallum Street. 

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story and photo by Bradley Maule