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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Capt. Ron & the Mullica River Bridge Project

Last week I got a telephone call from Ron Nicklow who expressed an interest in taking a boat ride to the site of the present Mullica River Bridge expansion project and asking if I would like to come along. Naturally, I jumped at the chance. Who wouldn't? I would get to take some up close photos of the project four our history archives and enjoy a boat ride with Captain Ron at the same time.

The current 53 million dollar expansion project represents the fourth bridge to span the Mullica between Bass River and Port Republic. The 1,230 foot long bridge is being constructed parallel to the existing bridge and will allow for the future widening of the Parkway to three lanes in each direction from the existing two lanes. A concrete deck will be built on pre-stressed concrete girders attached to piers up to 255 feet deep. About a mile of new approach roadways will also be constructed, most of that being a causeway from the new span, over the meadows, to solid land on the New Gretna side. The project is expected to be complete in October, 2010. Repairs to the existing Parkway bridge are scheduled to be finished one year later.

You can visit the April 4, 2009 Blog entry to see photos of the three previous bridges - the first iron bridge, the second iron bridge, and the Parkway bridge- by clicking on the link below:

I arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed at the dock adjacent to the Chestnut Neck Marina in Port Republic. Captain Ron, always the good host, handed me a hot cup of fresh brewed coffee, as we sat for a spell to plan our little adventure. He reported that they were drilling and inserting a 220 foot long iron cylinder into the river bed on this day. Later on in the week they would lower a honeycombed network of reinforcing rods down the length of the tube and fill the cylinder with 2,200 cubic yards of concrete. The lowering of the reinforcing rods one day, followed by the pouring of the concrete a day later. "Wow!", I exclaimed, "That's some operation!"

Coffee finished, we jumped into Captain Ron's fiberglass boat for our brief journey from the Chestnut Neck Boatyard to the bridge expansion project.

The Mullica River bridge expansion project is just north of the Chestnut Neck Boatyard. (Map downloaded from Google Maps and modified.)

The Chestnut Neck Boatyard is just down river from the Mullica River Bridge expansion project. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Captain Ron prepares to cast off for our trip upriver. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

The view upriver from the dock. The tall cranes can be seen adjacent to the existing bridge. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Captain Ron pulls away from the dock and heads upriver toward the towering cranes. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

As we got closer, I could clearly count 5 cranes. Some were on land while others were on barges. Two cranes were connected to each other. (August 35, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

The operating crane was working, drilling out sand from the third casing in the group. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Captain Ron turns in for a closer looking on the drilling procedure. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

The crane lines up the drill head with the casing before dropping the drill head down. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer. )

After the 220 foot long tubular casing was driven down and set on bedrock, the crane lowers the drilling head down into the casing to loosen and lift out the sand from inside the casing. This process is repeated until the casing is cleared to make room for the lowering of reinforcing rods and the pouring of concrete. Here we see the drill head just before entering the casing. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Here's a close up view of the drill head being lifted out of the casing after it has done its work. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

The drill head is then swung over a container where it is emptied before returning to the casing for another load of sand. The sand is then trucked to the Township Yard on Rt. 9 in New Gretna to be used in later phases of the project. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

The men standing to the left of the drill head that is about to be dumped gives a good perspective of just how big the equipment is. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

A man taking a break inside a piece of the case that is laying on its side shows just how large these cylinders are. They are welded together until they reach a height of about 220 feet. A group of three of the installed cylinders with the reinforcement rods protruding from the top can be seen on the right. I believe that a total of five groups of three cylinders each will be installed to support the bridge framework and decking. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

As we passed under the bridge, I spotted the remains of the bulkhead where the second iron bridge started across the Mullica River on its way to Port Republic. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Satisfied that we got enough photos of this phase of the project, we started back to the dock when Captain Ron suggested we take a little side trip to Nacote Creek. I eagerly agreed, as I wanted to take a photo of Don Maxwell's Oyster dredge and Oyster House. I was hoping that we would catch Donald there, as I always enjoy listening to his many stories, so I yelled out, "Let's Go!"

Captain Ron put the petal to the metal and, in white knuckle speed rivaling the legenday Steve Potter, we were at the mouth of Nacote Creek in what seemed like a few minutes.

We whipped past a sailboat just motoring out of the mouth of the Creek . . .

Looking to the far left of the sailboat, we could see the Nacote Creek bridge in the background. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

We then passed an osprey nest on our right just before turning left into the mouth of Nacote Creek . . .

Looking at the osprey nest, I notice the cranes by the Mullica River bridge in the distant background. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

As we moved up the creek, the Nacote Creek bridge came into clear view . . .

The Nacote Creek Bridge. August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.

And we found ourselves at Don Maxwell's Oyster House in no time . . .

The Maxwell Oyster House and oyster dredge. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Unfortunately, Don was no where to be found. Looks like we'll have to wait for another day to hear a few old New Gretna stories.

Never mind Waldo! Where is Don Maxwell? (August 25, 2009 photo be Pete Stemmer.)

Disappointed in not finding Don, Captain Ron turned the boat around, and we headed back to the dock where we were greeted by a group of his fans.

Captain Ron's fans were glad to see him back at the dock. (August 25, 2009 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

As Ron secured the boat, I thanked him for a great afternoon. Even though we didn't find Don, we got some great photos of the Mullica River bridge project and had a lot of fun to boot. I hope all of you out in the Blog-O-Sphere enjoyed the trip as well. Hopefully, we'll be taking future trips to photo other phases of the work. Eventually, we may even find the elusive Mr. Maxwell. Stay tuned!

Pete S


  1. Hey Pete,

    I wonder if anybody is looking through some of the stuff they are digging up for the new mullica river bridge? There might be some things from the battle there. Or of the old ships they scuttled. I know the Cramer guys had seed beds in the area and they dredged up some cannon balls.

    Bob Mathis

  2. Bob,

    Good point. It's worth checking out. I'll try to check with the project supervisor. Stay tuned!

    Pete S