The Most East Texas, Burr's Ferry Bridge, Sabine River, 2017
oil on canvas
36 x 36 in
Location: Bridge from Tx. Hwy. 63 to La. Hwy. 8
I originally chose to come to this spot because though I have crossed the Sabine here twice I'd never purposefully tried to go to this easternmost accessible point in the state as a destination in itself. This 80-year-old bridge crosses the Sabine at a place rich with history. Burr's Ferry, on what was then called "The Old Beef Trail", was the place Sam Houston had first been aiming for in the Runaway Scrape. It would later become a point of contention in the Civil War, as a key supply route from industries in Houston to Confederate forces in more pressed regions.
It turned out (Our visit was two months before Hurricane Harvey.) the bridge there had recently endured a trial by flood. Heavy and persistent rains in the Sabine River Floodplain in spring of 2016 pushed Toledo Bend Reservoir to the highest levels in its history. This forced the Corps of Engineers to open the entirety of the reservoir's floodgates to their maximum level. The level of the Sabine was more than thirty-six feet above its normal flow, the worst flood here since 1884. The historic Burr's Ferry Bridge had water flowing over the deck for two days, causing significant undermining of pilings on the Texas side.
I didn't know any of this as I walked along the side of the bridge down to the river's edge, but it didn't take a lot of prior knowledge to recognize that the little saplings taking root at the tops of bridge supports could only have the six-inch-deep soil in which they were growing in unusual circumstances.
The remediation of this flood damage saved the old bridge and left a massive, six-pillared structure holding up the great piling on the Texas side. After musing over this for a moment I stepped down to the water's edge, walking as far East as I could get at that point. A little south of this spot there is a bend in the Sabine that juts about a thousand feet further into Louisiana, but there are no roads to it. I could be reasonably secure in believing that, of the 28.5 million people in Texas I was for that moment the most easterly still on Texas soil. But for occasional cars clunking across expansion joints it was quiet. This was a moment apart- most appropriate for the region I'm examining.CALL FOR PRICE