Bridge to Middle Island Will Temporarily Close

Middle Island Bridge 512x383

Middle Island, located near St. Marys, West Virginia, is one of 22 islands making up Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. It is one of the largest islands on the Refuge, and is covered with beautiful meadows and bottomland forest. Several miles of maintained trails allow visitors to explore the island, and as one of only two Refuge islands that can be accessed by road, it is a popular and very special destination for visitors. Beginning this Fall, the bridge to the island will be closed for significant renovation.


The truss bridge to Middle Island originally led to a suspension bridge that spanned the entire width of the Ohio River. It was one of three identical bridges constructed in the early 20th century. In 1967, one of these bridges, the “Silver Bridge” connecting Point Pleasant, West Virginia to Gallipolis, Ohio collapsed during rush hour, submerging 75 vehicles and killing 46 people. Following this disaster, much more rigorous protocols were developed to assess the conditions of bridges nationwide, leading to many bridge replacements. Not surprisingly, the Silver Bridge’s sister at St. Marys was one of the bridges found to be structurally inadequate, and the suspension bridge portion of the span was subsequently demolished.

The remnant truss bridge connecting the mainland to Middle Island does not include the design flaws of the suspension bridge, but is none the less extremely old and in need of repairs. When the original suspension bridge was demolished, the truss bridge was saved specifically to allow vehicle access to the island, and an awkward ramp was built at a sharp, perpendicular angle to the truss. This summer’s renovation work includes the removal of this old ramp, the construction of a new, gently curved ramp that will greatly increase usability (including access to the island by school buses), the refurbishing and enhancement of the truss bridge’s infrastructure, and the addition of a protected pedestrian walkway on the side of the bridge.

It is not presently clear how long the bridge closure will remain in effect, though it is anticipated the closure could last as long as two years. During the bridge closure, Middle Island will continue to be open for visitation via personal watercraft. Refuge staff will continue to maintain the island trails, and hunting and fishing opportunities will not be affected by the bridge closure. For more information contact Michael Schramm at (304) 375-2923 or via email: michael_schramm@fws.gov, or visit the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center which is open Tuesday through Saturday from 8 am to 4:30 pm, 3982 Waverly Rd, Williamstown, West Virginia.