Kayakers concerned over height of new Croydon Bridge on Weber River

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CROYDON, Morgan County — Kayakers said they're concerned a new bridge in Morgan County is too low.

The Croydon Bridge, also known as the Devil's Slide Bridge, crosses a popular section of the Weber River.

"Especially on a warm weekend or a holiday weekend, like the Fourth or Memorial Day or something like that, you can come around the corner and just see hundreds of tubers, kayakers, rafters; lots of different people are out there using the river," kayaker and raft guide Melody Ream said.

Mitch Shaw, spokesman for the Utah Department of Transportation, said the new bridge opened in April. It replaced a temporary bridge that was constructed last summer. The original bridge was nearly 100 years old when it was taken down.

Shaw said UDOT was limited in how high it could build the bridge due to nearby railroad infrastructure. He said the bridge is a highly trafficked thoroughfare for high-profile vehicles, especially trucks heading to a nearby cement plant that need to be able to pass underneath the railroad.

Concerns for people and cars

People who are regularly on the water like Ream said they're worried inexperienced people can't get under it, and cars may not be able to cross it if the water gets higher.

"Especially like tubers," she said. "They kind of flail, so they don't have a lot of control over where they're going. So they're kind of coming around this corner, and it's a blind corner."

She said she hoped river users would've been considered more in the planning and design process.

"I know it was a complex issue because you have funding; they had two other bridges that they were maneuvering between because there's the railroad bridge and the other railroad bridge," Ream said. "I know there's the mining company on the other side."

Kayaker Parker Phillips said the water is already coming up on the bridge.

"I know that if we were to have as much water as we did last year or were to get a random boost, that could be a problem for the people passing over it because just the water flow going over it," he said.

Shaw told KSL, ideally, UDOT would've built the bridge higher. He said water did pool over the original bridge several years ago, and the department will have to be prepared for the chances it may happen again. He said crews did work on the riverbed to try to bring water levels down.

Families and others on the water

Phillips and Ream said they're not too concerned about people familiar with that stretch. Instead, they're thinking of families or people who may be intoxicated floating down the river.

"If you're a family, and you're going down, and you're like, 'OK, now I have to herd all these kids and get them out before the bridge' … they might just get shoved into it and get caught," Ream said.

They know how powerful water can be. Ream said she's done search and rescue work.

"The bridge can catch like trees and things," she said. "If it catches a tree, and then a person goes through, it's going to be called a strainer. So it's like spaghetti, right? Like the juice can go through, the water can go through, but it catches people, things, tubes, all that kind of stuff."

There's a portage area off to the left where people climb out of the water and walk around the bridge. Both Ream and Phillips said it poses its own dangers with vehicles like semitrailers driving close to the walkway.

"I just worry that somebody could be crossing the street and not look both ways and then have a semi come through," Phillips said.

'Not a perfect solution'

Ream said, as a raft guide, she's seen it's not a perfect solution.

"If I'm taking someone in a raft, I get to take people that don't normally get to recreate outside in the wilderness, like they might not be physically fit or anything," she said. "It's actually really fun to be able to get them out, but to be able to have them help me carry the raft around or, you know, just stuff like that, it's really tricky for the disabled and the elderly."

She and Phillips think there should be more warning signs posted upstream.

"You show up to the bridge, and there's no 'get out' soon signs or anything," Phillips said.

Shaw told KSL the construction company that put up the temporary bridge also placed portage signs in the area, but those have since been removed. He said UDOT currently doesn't have plans to be put up more signs. He said anyone white water rafting down the river should be with an experienced guide who knows the river and its obstacles.

Ream and Phillips have a warning for people on the water, especially ahead of Memorial Day weekend.

"It's not necessarily as much I'm worried about replacing it as I am signage and letting people be aware that they need to be getting out of the river earlier," Phillips said.


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