FOXHOLM Is it Bakers Bridge or Baker Bridge? There may be no right answer to that question, which is part of the history of the bridge that spans the Souris River immediately below the Upper Souris National Wildlife Refuge.
A sign at a refuge public use area near the bridge refers to "Bakers Bridge". Donald "Dutch" Meyers, who resides immediately east of the bridge, says "Bakers Bridge is all I've ever heard. I really don't know." His wife, he said, thought it was just Baker Bridge.
When asked about whether or not the name was plural, Duane Anderson said he really wasn't sure either. Anderson, a native of nearby Carpio and a longtime employee at the refuge, was curious enough to do some research on the subject. He found the abstract detailing ownership and sale of land adjacent to the bridge.
A U.S. Geological Survey employee checks the flow in the Souris River immediately below Baker Bridge this past Thursday. Although an automated gauge is located near the bridge, physical checks are often made to insure accuracy.
Unlike its predecessor, today’s Baker Bridge is barely visible. Several years ago Ward County Highway 8 was paved, replacing the gravel roadway that led over the bridge since at least the 1930s.
"The original tract was 160 acres, which is now on the refuge north of the bridge. Alice Baker was the owner of the tract. Dahly Gorman and his family lived there but had no lease," said Anderson. "The Department of Agriculture Bureau of Biological Survey bought the land for $18.75 an acre."
The land was purchased in the mid-1930s when the Upper Souris NWR was established. The old Baker place, which was occupied by the Gorman family, was apparently situated where the public use area is today. A depression just north of the parking lot still contains what may be remnants of a foundation.
The land, known as tract 547, included a home and barn and perhaps other outbuildings. According to records, Baker was judged incompetent and a public administrator handled the sale of the property to the Bureau of Biological Survey, later the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. While Gorman had no lease or other rights to the property, he did lay claim to a few items.
"The tenant claimed all windows in the house, three doors, barbed wire, woven wire and the barn," said Anderson.
A map from the 1930s shows a symbol for a bridge where the structure named after Alice Baker sits today. The original bridge was primarily wood situated atop pilings placed in the Souris River. Undoubtedly it had been renovated as necessary through the years until the flood of 1969 struck.
"I moved here in 1968," said Meyers. "The flood of '69 maybe moved the bridge because it was crooked."
Meyers remembers the bridge for another reason too. He hauled hay over it in the '50s. Then, as it is now, the bridge was a popular fishing spot.
"About 1955 or '56 there were so many cars along the road that you couldn't hardly get through with a hay truck," recalled Meyers. "Funny we didn't kill somebody."
A new Baker, or Bakers Bridge, was constructed a few years ago. Today it has little resemblance to a bridge, other than a railing to keep pedestrians and vehicles from falling into the river below. The road passing over it, Ward County Highway 8, is now paved. During the flood of 2011 Souris River water was several feet deep over the roadway but the bridge remained solid.
Fishermen still toss bait or flip lures into the water each summer at Bakers Bridge. Sometimes they drill holes and fish there in the winter too.
"I haven't heard much recently, but the grandchildren did a lot of fishing there this summer. They had real good luck," said Meyers.
Be it Baker or Bakers, it continues to be a popular fishing hole.