Deployable Bridges

Over the last few months as I have slowly scouted and mapped more and more of the Salton Sea shoreline, one issue that I find myself facing more than I planned is water crossings.

When I first started planning my walk around the shoreline, I knew that the “big 3” would take some planning. Those 3 are the Whitewater River at the northern tip, the New River at the southern end, and it’s nearby neighbor, the Alamo River. The Whitewater River is bone dry during summer and is not much of an obstacle. The New and Alamo rivers with their polluted water and large muddy delta areas will require detouring up to the roads to cross via bridges, although the option of simply kayaking across is not yet off the table.

The surprise that I did not plan for is the dozens of drainage canals and natural creeks that also flow into Salton Sea. Some of the larger canals are as wide as small rivers but most of these are not a problem as they have short detours up into the farmland area to cross. What remains is the dozen or more smaller canals and creeks.

Natural creek flowing into Salton Sea

There are many small creeks flowing into Salton Sea

Luckily many of these can be stepped or jumped over, but even that is risky due to the mud that usually surrounds them. The real problem is with the medium sized creeks that are 4 to 8 feet wide.  To get around these medium sized crossings I can either cross right through or find a detour, neither of which are optimal.

Wading across the creek means that I have to stop, take off my shoes and socks, cross, then stop, clean the mud off my feet and dry them, put shoes and socks back on and continue, all of which takes a good amount of energy.  There is also the potential of getting stuck in dangerous quicksand-like mud or tripping or getting knocked over by the current – falling into the water would result in a wet backpack, wet shoes, and wet socks, all of which would ruin my day.

BYOB: Bring Your Own Bridge

The other option, which I will be testing this week, is using deployable bridges.  The bridges can be deployed a few days in advance, and then later removed by me or my team. Because the location of many of these creeks is miles from the nearest road access the bridge would have to be lightweight and easily carried by only one or two people but still be able to span a creek up to 10 feet wide. After considering several options, usually very large/heavy and always very expensive, I have engineered my own deployable bridge.

My bridge design consists of one hunk of 2X6 lumber, 7-10 feet long, with some ‘mud flap’ cross-members nailed to each end to help prevent it from sinking in the mud. Total cost for each bridge: $6.85.

2x6 wood for a bridge

Simple solution for a simple problem

I will be testing my inexpensive deployable bridge later this week and will have a full report here in the blog on it’s success or failure.

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