On Saturday, May 8th, some of our 4H members made the trip to the Pennybacker Bridge for a trash clean-up! The bridge, more commonly referred to as the “360 Bridge,” has gorgeous views of Lake Austin which made for a very scenic experience. Members Thomas Brentano and Bella Sperry organized the event with the help of Nicole Beckstrom, Lawrence English, and his amazing son Jack! Once parked, visitors can climb several step-like boulders to arrive at an overlook. There is also a short, one-mile trail that extends along the river which, unfortunately, had plenty of trash for us to grab. We filled about five garbage bags with recyclable cans, containers, and bottles.
The bridge was named in honor of Percy V. Pennybacker, a civil engineer for the Texas Highway Department. He helped develop the use of cost-effective welding technology for the construction of bridges. The Pennybacker Bridge is 1,150 feet long and was uniquely built so that no part of it touches any water below. As a result, Lake Austin has been kept free of any columns that might interfere with the recreational fishing and boating activities that take place there.
When it opened in 1982, the Pennybacker Bridge was only the second bridge in the world with this type of design. It was even awarded first place in the Federal Highway Administration’s Excellence in Highway Design competition in 1984. The steel bridge has a subtle rust finish which causes the bridge to blend in with the surrounding hills and lake. This is especially celebrated as modern architecture aims to complement the environment it is built-in.
The city asks that visitors of this overlook leave no trash in the surrounding nature, and avoid bringing food to decrease littering. It is also unsafe to visit at night given the rocky climb and steep drop. If you’re interested in visiting, be sure to wear safe closed toe shoes and always bring a hiking partner!