One of the best things to do in Pawhuska is to take a walk across the town’s famous bridge. Of course, it’s not just any bridge, it’s a swinging bridge. And oh boy, can you really feel the swinging! Here’s what you need to know to plan your own visit to the Swinging Bridge in Pawhuska including tips for visiting!
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Where to Stay in Pawhuska
While you can visit Pawhuska as a day trip from Oklahoma City, Tulsa, or Wichita, there’s enough to do here that you can stay overnight or on a long weekend and really dig into all that Pawhuska and Osage County have to offer.
Here are my suggestions for where to stay in each budget category. Recommendations are based on listed prices at the time, but keep in mind they can fluctuate based on availability, so always double-check the linked-to website for pricing for your exact dates.
Best Budget Option (Under $100 a night)
Best Mid-Range Option ($100-200 per night)
For a stay with a cozy appeal, check into the Historic Whiting Hotel Suites, located a tenth of a mile from The Mercantile and the rest of downtown. Rooms feature private balconies, kitchenettes, and kitschy decor. See pictures and availability here.
Best Luxury Option ($200 or more per night)
For a relaxing stay, check into the Frontier Hotel Pawhuska, which offers a sophisticated take on Wild West decor without scrimping on comfort. The rooms are stunning, with a mix of modern and farmhouse style and layers of country fabrics. See pictures and availability here.
Things to Know Before You Visit the Swinging Bridge in Pawhuska
It’s not a complicated visit, but there are a few things you need to know to have a great little trip!
What is Pawhuska’s Swinging Bridge?
Like it’s name suggest, it’s a swinging bridge. Of course, it’s a little more than that! Built in 1926 and refurbished in 1970, the bridge you see (and feel) today is essentially unchanged for almost one hundred years! Sitting astride Bird Creek, historically it was the only way to cross the large creek and get into town.
Its characteristic swing comes from the fact that it’s a suspension bridge, and the wooden planks you walk across have a little extra squeak and bounce to add to the overall adrenaline-filled experience. The fact that it was built as a pedestrian bridge, and not meant for horses or automobiles, is why it’s so narrow. This is why it’s extra bouncy, and thus extra fun (read: scary).
The bridge sits thirty feet above the water, but it feels closer somehow. Or was that the adrenaline pumping through my brains and distorting reality?
How to Get to the Pawhuska Swinging Bridge: Directions and Address
If you come to Pawhuska to visit the Mercantile or the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, you might think you’ll come across the Swinging Bridge naturally while you’re in town. Actually, it’s not something you’ll randomly find unless you know what you’re looking for. In fact, during my first visit to Pawhuska, I forgot to even look for it!
The good news is that the bridge is correctly marked on Google Maps, so you can navigate to it. I’d be cautious if you’re using a car navigation system, which can sometimes not have full landmarks at this level. If you are using your car navigation system, check it against Google Maps before you leave.
The exact location is at the intersection of Kihekah Avenue and E. Second Street. Since the bridge doesn’t have an actual address, you can use the address for the First Baptist South Church across the street, which is: 201-207 E 2nd St, Pawhuska, OK 74056. Remember if you use the church to navigate that the bridge is behind the church.
There’s a clearly marked sign (shown above) to denote the bridge’s entrance.
If you’re coming from the other side of Bird Creek, the entrance is at the end of Palmer Avenue. There is no sign on this side of the bridge.
When is the Swinging Bridge Open & How Long Does It Take to Visit?
The bridge is technically open twenty-four hours a day, though I would not want to do it at night. Maybe when I was nineteen but definitely not now. Between the water, the darkness, the swinging, and the chance of running into strangers, I would be a complete scardy cat to visit at night. Mostly because of the swinging over the creek in the dark, to be honest.
We spent about twenty minutes here in total, so it’s an easy place to visit in between other items on your Pawhuska itinerary.
How Much Does it Cost to Visit the Swinging Bridge
It’s free! The bridge is a town landmark and an important tourist spot in Pawhuska (and its fun for locals), but there’s no cost to cross. It’s still used as a pedestrian walkway for folks to live on the other side of the creek, so be respectful of anyone you run into here. For you, it’s a cool new experience. For some people, it’s their normal way they walk downtown.
What It’s Like Walking Across the Swinging Bridge
Um, I’m so glad I did it, but I don’t want to do it again. It’s not that swingy or bouncy, and my husband loved it. But for me, with a one-year-old at home, it was too much swinging. There was one point on the way back where I almost dropped my cell phone. After that, I kind of just booked it off the bridge as fast as I could. Which caused it to swing and sway more, which made the experience scarier. So go slow and don’t panic like me, and you’ll be fine!
The View from the Middle of the Bridge
By far my favorite part of the walk was seeing the beautiful view above Bird Creek. While I wouldn’t want to fall into the creek from the bridge, seeing it from above was really lovely!
Tips for Photographing Your Trip to the Swinging Bridge
The bridge has several cool sections that you will want to photograph. If you are visiting with someone, ask them to take your picture as you walk across (and, of course, return the favor). I also love photographs of the view (above) and what the bridge looks like with no one on it:
Keeping people in the frame can be good for scale, and there are different sections of the bridge itself. Each section offers something different from the angles of the bridge to the presence of water or ground underneath. And of course, taking vertical and horizontal photos will give you lots of options to play with when you get back home.
More Pawhuska & Osage County Travel Resources
Heading to Pawhuska? Check out my guide to the best things to do in Pawhuska (as well as the town of Shidler), my guide to visiting the Mercantile, the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, and my favorite Pawhuska photo spots.
If you’re coming to Pawhuska from Oklahoma City, here are directions to get from OKC to Pawhuska.
What to Pack for a Trip in Oklahoma
Tips for Renting a Car in Oklahoma
It’s awfully hard to get around Oklahoma without a car. Trust me, I’ve tried! While we went ahead and bought a car when we moved back, if you’ll only be here for a short while (or if you’re coming in from out of town), then you will want to rent a car.
I use Discover Cars when I rent cars on my travels. You’ll be able to pick up a car at any airport or in your hometown.
Check availability and get a quote for a rental car for your trip here.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Heading out on the road?
Before you leave for your trip make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I have used World Nomads when I travel since 2016, and I happily recommend them.
Getting coverage is important whenever you’re more than a hundred miles from home in case of an accident, sickness, theft, etc.
Get a travel insurance quote for your trip here.
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Stephanie is a born-and-bred Oklahoma mom and travel expert who has been to over fifty countries. After living in Eastern Europe for four years, she has moved with her family back to Oklahoma to write about her favorite places growing up: Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, & Route 66!