Since 1939, a steel swing bridge has carried cars passing between the Francis Marion National Forest and Mount Pleasant over the Wando River.

Aug. 18 marked the twilight of its life as a bridge – and the start of a new journey. As vehicles sped past on the newly opened replacement bridge in the afternoon, the old steel swing bridge was lowered slowly by crane onto the back of a barge.

Now, the 168-foot bridge is destined for a new life as an artificial reef 50 miles off the coast of Charleston. There, in over 300 feet of water, it will become part of the South Carolina Memorial Reef, providing habitat for fish and sea life on what was formerly a sandy stretch of seafloor.

The Memorial Reef fund was started by an independent group of anglers who wanted to honor the memory of late family and friends through the construction of an artificial reef. The South Carolina Governor’s Cup Advisory Board of Directors has helped facilitate construction of the reef, which is a part of the permitted Marine Protected Area called the Charleston Deep Reef.

The first structures placed at the reef in 2014 — two retired barges piled high with shipping containers, truck chassis, and radio towers — have already had great success attracting fish such as snowy grouper and large billfish such as blue marlin and sailfish.

“The large number billfish caught and released in and around the South Carolina Memorial Reef this summer has been unprecedented,” said Amy Dukes, tournament coordinator for the Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series. “There’s so much life in that area, and the bridge is just going to make it more alive.”


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