Within the confines of the City of Lowell one can spend a whole day strolling beautiful walkways and jogging paths that line the Merrimack River, the Concord River and the 5.6 miles of canals that wind through America's first planned industrial city. The Lowell National Historic Park, the MA Division of Conservation, Parks and Recreation and the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust have all contributed sections to what constitutes miles of continuous paved paths that weave through and adjacent to all of Lowell's major attractions. Providing inspiring vistas and birds-eye views from numerous points along the route, Lowell's bridges over the Merrimack River tell the story of the region one step at a time. Home to the annual Bay State Marathon, one of the major qualifiers for the Boston Marathon, a journey on foot over the bridges of Lowell can be the setting of an athletic test of endurance or Thoreau inspired day of contemplation, depending on the pace of the individual.
Moving upstream on the Merrimack River, the bridges within the City of Lowell are as follows.
Hunt's Falls Bridge, Nesmith Street to Rt. 110 over the Merrimack River
Named for the 10' drop in elevation of the Merrimack River beneath the bridge and to the east, The Hunt's Falls Bridge is a busily traveled thoroughfare that connects Rt. 38 to Rt. 110 via a rotary on the northern side of the bridge. Lowell General Hospital's Saints Campus is located on the southern (Belvedere neighborhood) side. The crossing was originally made in 1823 at the site with a wooden bridge that has long since been replaced. The Bridge, and the falls it crosses, are named for a prominent colonial era family from the now Belvedere, then Tewksbury, MA, section of Lowell.
John E. Cox Memorial (Bridge Street) Bridge,Bridge Street over the Merrimack River
Built in 1937 by the American Bridge Company in NY, this bridge is significant as a rare example of a small-scale through truss cantilever. Most cantilever bridges were built on much larger rivers, as such it is historically and technologically significant with its span of 196.9' and total length of 474.1' as an example of a relatively small-scale application of cantilever truss bridge engineering. Dedicated to John E. Cox, Lowell resident, the plaque dedication reads “…in appreciation of his many years of faithful service to his community”.
Joseph R. Ouellette Bridge, Aiken Street over the Merrimack River, Lowell, MA
The Joseph R. Ouellette Bridge is a five-span through truss bridge on Aiken Street over the Merrimack River in Lowell, MA. It was built in 1883. With its span of 154.9' and total length of 779.9' the Aiken Street Bridge, as it is colloquially known, is the longest lenticular truss bridge in the United States. This bridge is named after Joseph R. Ouellette, Korean War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient who ensured the survival of his 2nd Infantry Division comrades while losing his own life. It links the traditionally French Canadian Lowell neighborhoods of Centreville and Little Canada.
Richard P. Howe Bridge, University Avenue to Merrimack Street over the Merrimack River in Lowell
It is named for Richard P. Howe who served 40 years on the Lowell City Council (1966-2006) including 4 terms as Mayor. Opened in 2013, this bridge replaced the Textile Memorial Bridge (named for the seventeen Lowell Textile Institute, now UML, students who gave their lives in WWII). The Richard P. Howe Bridge connects University Ave to Merrimack Street over the Merrimack River, Lowell, MA. The Textile Memorial Bridge (now removed), was originally known as the Moody Street Bridge, and is famous to fans of Jack Kerouac, author and Lowell native, who immortalized the Moody Street Bridge in his novel Doctor Sax. In a famous portion of the novel Kerouac describes a scene in which the protagonist and his mother watch an elderly man who was carrying a watermelon drop dead. Along with the adjacent, now defunct, St. Jean Baptiste Church and Kerouac's grave site in Edson Cemetery in Lowell, the 'Watermelon Man Bridge' site continues to be an often visited site by fans of Kerouac.
The O'Donnell Bridge/ School Street Bridge, Mammoth Road to Pawtucket Street over the Merrimack River and Northern Canal
Originally crossing the Merrimack River in 1888, the O'Donnell Bridge or School Street Bridge crosses the Merrimack River at the historic Pawtucket Dam (circa 1700's) which creates the Northern Canal of Lowell, MA. The Pawtucket Gatehouse is adjacent to the span that crosses the canal. A white gate leads down to an overlook of the Pawtucket Dam, as well as a walkway around a lock and the gatehouse and the 1847 Gatekeepers House.
The Rourke Bridge, VFW Highway (Rt.110) to Wood Street over the Merrimack River in Lowell
The Rourke Bridge was opened in 1983 as a temporary bridge over the Merrimack River. It connects Lowell and Chelmsford on the south side of the river to Dracut and Tyngsboro on the north side of the river. The current bridge is a nine-span, 1,100 foot long structure, with one northbound and one southbound lane. Many recreational activities take place near the bridge, including boating, rowing, kayaking, biking and walking. In the 1970s and 1980s, several studies looked at alternatives for a permanent river crossing.