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by Deon Clarke | Associate Writer
Local or visitor, chances are you've heard about Flat Bridge Jamaica or the bog walk gorge, right?
Not only is the fact that this place has driven ghostly fears in the hearts and minds of many, it has left many families in shambles with the loss of loved ones and have travelers drawn to their Maker with prayers and chanting - even for the few minutes it takes to cross!
See also: The 30 Most Popular Bridges In Jamaica
I must say, when I was younger, I was absolutely terrified at the thought of travelling across the bridge due to the horror stories that I had heard of accidents and vehicles plunging in the river.
However, the first time I traversed the area, I couldn’t believe that this simple looking place could be the source of so many tragedy and heart aches. It just looked like a regular road with a traffic light you have to obey and a river below, but truthfully it is quite a mystery.
To be honest with you, even today, I’m still scared of the area, don't laugh now :-)
If you are a visitor to the island, you are forgiven. Now you get a chance to learn about it.
Let’s look at some frequently ask questions and other details of the area.
The Flat Bridge, which is considered to be one of the oldest bridges in Jamaica, is located in St. Catherine Jamaica. For those interested in coordinates, it is located at 18°03′40.50″N and 76°59′04″W.
How old is this bridge you may ask? It is uncertain when the bridge was built but can be confirmed as having been constructed after 1724.
It is really a beam bridge design that stretches 45 metres or 148 feet across the Rio Cobre. However, it is not very wide, with just about a 4 metre width or 13 feet wide.
In his publication, "History of Jamaica", printed in 1774, Edward Long describes the bridge as quoted below:
“This bridge is flat and composed of planks on frame of timberwork which rests upon
two piers and two buttresses projecting from the banks, constructed with piles and
braces interlaced with masonry”.
Of course, this was centuries ago and at a time when slaves were used from the 16 plantations in the Bog Walk area. Yes, slaves- enslaved Africans, one in every 50 on the plantations had to take the journey to work on this River Road (which was sometimes called the Sixteen Mile Walk).
Many lives were lost in the extremely dangerous process as they dug gravel, lime, sand, stone and marl in less than desirable conditions in the Gorge.
The floor of the bridge was reported to have washed away between 1881 and 1915 but was later reconstructed using iron girders and buckle plates that were retrieved from the original flooring of the May Pen Bridge.
Some work , isn’t it?
Oh yes, in the 1930s the bridge had metal rails but later transitioned to wooden rails.
These were destroyed at different points in time by the raging waters of the Rio Cobre, leaving only the naked stones which now seems to be the only protection that the bridge currently enjoys with its support of the two piers and two abutments.
Of course, today, the bridge now facilitates a single lane traffic which is managed by traffic lights.
However, when it rains heavily, the bridge is often flooded and motorist have no choice but to take the alternative route through Barry and Sligoville.
Nevertheless some try to brave the seemingly harmless or at times raging and furious waters and barely escape with their lives, if they do at all, as they tend to underestimate the intensity of the powerful river below.
Many motorists have breathe a sigh of relief that they no longer have to traverse this treacherous route due to the construction of the new and expansive South Coast and North Coast Highway which bypasses the area.
Over the decades and probably centuries, the Flat Bridge has been plagued with numerous motor vehicle accidents, I’d say too many to count.
Divers who live in the areas have had to go to the assistance of many entrapped motorists. More interestingly, you should hear the stories of those who made it out alive of some miraculous events and even supernatural assistance.
There are many ghost stories about the slaves taking vengeance and sacrifices for their demise. And if mermaids aren't living in any other body of water in Jamaica, most persons are convinced they are living in the Flat Bridge.
However, the police will be quick to point out that many of the accidents are usually due to careless and reckless behavior, but if you tell that to some people and they will laugh you to a scorn, especially those who live in the area.
They deeply believe these stories and will tell you of their many strange encounters and experiences such as unusual mechanical failures or the river changing to green colour when it wants to take in someone, suggesting that the bridge is indeed haunted.
Whatever is the truth, it is certainly one of the most intriguing places in Jamaica and something to add to your bucket list to visit.
And while there, ask about the special rock!
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Updated: August 2nd, 2022
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