The Swing Bridge: Linking the North and South of Belize’s Largest Metropolis

The Belize City Swing Bridge is an incredibly historic icon of engineering. Not only is it a testament to the city’s rich history, but it also serves as a connection between its North and South sides, divided by an important waterway. Built in 1923, the Swing Bridge reflects the development of the metropolis as a commercial hub. Initially constructed to replace an older wooden bridge, it had the added bonus of accommodating the increasing maritime traffic along Haulover Creek. Its distinctive ability to swing open horizontally to allow larger boats to pass made its instalment worthy of admiration and continues to remain a fascinating feature in a largely commercial portion of the city.

Constructed in Liverpool, England, the bridge was brought to Belize City by a United States company in New Orleans. As a replacement for wooden bridges built by locals to allow access over the creek, the new bridge’s design allowed boats with tall masts to pass the bridge and continue up the river to offer supplies and services to the city. Can you imagine the sight of a bridge swinging open to allow boat traffic to pass?!

The Swing Bridge would swing twice a day in its heyday: morning and evening.
At least four people were tasked to hand crank the manually operated system, swinging the bridge to allow boats to pass through. The majority of the vessels passing by were fishing boats, along with a few larger passenger boats either heading out or back from the surrounding cayes. The entire process was a fascinating part of the day for residents and visitors, and those who needed to cross to either side of the city between the bridge would have to plan their route and timing accordingly, as the swinging of the bridge lasted around an hour.

This famous swinging bridge, the oldest such bridge in Central America, even has a cameo in the film Dogs of War. The 1980 film stars Christopher Walken, and scenes for the fictional African country Zangaro were shot in Belize City. The bridge is shown being manually cranked back into place from its parallel position along the creek.

The bridge’s rotating mechanism was eventually upgraded to a motorized one in the mid-20th century. Throughout its existence, the bridge has faced challenges wrought by Mother Nature. To date, there are ongoing efforts from both government and community to preserve and maintain its structural integrity. Now that the boat traffic through Haulover Creek has slowed down significantly, the bridge only swings for ceremonial occasions. It remains a historic symbol of the growth and development of the city. The colorful wooden fishing boats that once dominated the waters of the creek still bob and weave on the waterway, providing a colorful tapestry to those looking from either the North or South of the city.


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