Belize’s Swing Bridge: 101-Years-Old and Counting
There may not be a birthday party staged by municipal officials to memorialize the day Belize’s first swing bridge was erected, but there’s no denying the fact that the much-needed structure connecting two landmasses known as the Swing Bridge was a boon to foot traffic and fishermen from the day it was installed.
Originally named “The Grand Belize Bridge,” this structure was funded by England’s King George III in 1818 when he gave Belize a £1,000 grant to build the bridge. It was officially opened on March 9th, just a year after Queen Victoria’s birth. It served its purpose until 1859 when a replacement was installed at a cost of $84,000.
Replaced yet again in 1922 (and officially opened on April 11, 1923), a stronger, more modern version helped fishermen get their catches to the main harbor and also provided a footpath (and later automobile access) between the two sides of the river. What made this bridge unique was that it was manually operated by workers whose job it was to make sure the Swing Bridge opened and closed each morning and evening.
Proclaimed “the only functioning manually-operated swing bridge in the world,” Belize’s Swing Bridge continued to remain operational throughout the 1940s. It took the wrath of Mother Nature to bring traffic to a halt when Hurricane Hattie swept through Central America in 1961 and damaged the bridge so much, it became unsafe to use.
Now a symbol of nostalgia, Belize’s Swing Bridge received a facelift in 1998 and remains a favorite downtown Belize City attraction for the curious. And while it no longer requires manual labor to hoist the structure so boats can make their way up river to deliver their catch to cooperatives, it is still opened on ceremonial occasions, so if you have an opportunity to witness this event, don’t miss it.