The Bridges of Charleston County

The very icon of Charleston is the silouette of the Ravenel Bridge, symbolizing a culture of connection: our history, our culture, and obviously our roads and paths.
From the awe-inspiring cable-stayed spans soaring above the Cooper River, to historic swing bridges that have seen everything – each crossing offers a glimpse into the city’s growth, connecting not only concrete and steel but also the hearts of its inhabitants.

Whether you’re an ardent history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply a curious wanderer, Charleston’s bridges are sure to captivate your imagination and reveal the extraordinary spirit of this treasured coastal gem.

A tower of the Ravenel Bridge as viewed from a boat on the Cooper River below it

These are the bridges that define Charleston, discovering the stories etched into their very foundations, and the profound impact they continue to have on the lives of those who call this charming city their home.

Steeped in rich history and architectural intrigue, these iconic structures serve as vital lifelines, uniting the mainland with surrounding islands and neighboring communities. As silent witnesses to the city’s evolution, Charleston’s bridges stand as enduring symbols of progress, resilience, and the seamless blending of past and present.

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is an iconic cable-stayed bridge that spans the Cooper River, connecting Downtown Charleston with Mount Pleasant.
Completed in 2005, the bridge replaced the aged Grace Memorial Bridge and stands as the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere. With its soaring 575-foot main span, the Ravenel Bridge offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Charleston skyline and Charleston Harbor.
It is an essential link for daily commuters and a popular destination for joggers, cyclists, and tourists seeking unparalleled vistas of the area.

Ashley River Memorial Bridge

The Ashley River Memorial Bridge, commonly known as the Legare Bridge, is a historic bridge that connects Downtown Charleston with West Ashley.
Completed in 1926, the bridge stands as a symbol of Charleston’s architectural heritage, connecting Charleston to its first big suburb of the 20th century.

Ben Sawyer Bridge

The connection from Mount Pleasant to Sullivan’s Island was for many years only a light rail bridge across the Pitt Street Bridge. Vehicular traffic was opened to the island in 1945 with the completion of a swiveling roadway built above and parallel to the railway.
Positioned above the Intracoastal Waterway, the Ben Sawyer Bridge must permit frequent boat traffic, and its swing mechanism parts the span to allow sailboats and other tall traffic to pass through. 

The Ben Sawyer Bridge was for many years the only link to the mainland for Sullivan’s Island the Isle of Palms, a dilemma highlighted by the harrowing evacuation of the islands during Hurricane Hugo
The bridge has since been supplemented by the Isle of Palms Connector.

Don Holt Bridge

This steel span soars over the Cooper River between North Charleston and Daniel Island as a component of Interstate 526. Its structure appears as a mesh of triangles in three truss spans, painted in a striking cobalt blue. 
It was built in 1992 as a part of the Interstate Highway System, replacing an aging two-lane swing bridge. The span is flanked in both directions by the facilities that determined its functional height: the North Charleston port terminal and the U.S. Navy Base Charleston

The locals refer to the bridge “The Don Holt” – and not usually in an affectionate way. This section of 526 can be a bottleneck that freezes up in afternoon traffic, and is often unforgiving when managing flow around a vehicle incident. Regardless, the Don Holt serves as a critical link for daily commuters and also an important connector for hurricane evacuations.

Wappoo Creek Bridge

This vital span connects James Island, Folly Beach, and Johns Island to the mainland by way of West Ashley. Gently arcing over the Wappoo Creek section of the Intracoastal Wateway, this drawbridge is just the right height for most boats to cruise under, and its steel deck retracts to allow sailboats and other tall vessels to pass in and out of Charleston Harbor.

As with any bridge built in the 1950s, the Wappoo Creek Bridge – while beloved by many – is not ideal for modern traffic. The deck consists of six narrow vehicle lanes and two very tight sidepasses that I once dared to walk a bicycle over. Occasionally the drawbridge gears get stuck which provides a plausible excuse for being late to work, although the route has since been supplemented by the James Island Connector.

Shem Creek Bridge

A small causeway that barely clears the scenic tidal creek, just high enough to allow kayaks and johnboats to pass under. Shem Creek winds its way from Charleston Harbor through the town of Mount Pleasant beset by picturesque views of marshlands and shrimp boats.

Along the creek’s shores, you’ll find an array of seafood restaurants, bars, and shops.