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The Little Bridge That Links Vero Beach to Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Photo Courtesy of Indian River Historical Society- Original Wabasso Bridge

Disney's Vero Beach Resort brings guests from around the world who cross over the Wabasso bridge for their first glimpse at the ocean. Yet few know the historical link between Disney and Wabasso, dating back to the years just before Disney World was completed.

The connection dates back to the 1880's when only a hardy few lived on Orchid Island. The bridge began as a dock built by the families of Captain Frank Forster and Stephen Michael as a place to tie up boats when they crossed the Indian River to the mainland. When the Florida East Coast Railway came in the early 1890s, the Wabasso dock became the only means for delivery of citrus, pineapples, and winter vegetables from Orchid Island, to the railroad and to market.

In the mid 1920’s development on Orchid Island grew until it was obvious a bridge was needed. In 1928, a narrow wooden bridge was built with a swing span to allow boats passage on the Intracoastal Waterway. The tender’s house sat in the middle of the river on the north side of the narrow two-lane bridge and a turn wheel opened the swing bridge.

In the late 1960s, as plans were being made to build a modern causeway and a new high-rise arch bridge over the river channel, a fire broke out and destroyed a large section of the original Wabasso bridge. For several months the only way to cross the river was a floating “pontoon” bridge from the World War II era. This bridge was utilized until the new Wabasso Bridge (CR 510) was completed.

It was about that time that Florida's Magic Kingdom was constructing a small railroad to encircle the theme park. They needed a draw bridge over a canal from the lagoon to the boatyard where the ferries were serviced. When they heard about the Florida Department of Transportation replacing an old swing bridge in Wabasso and decided to check it out. The Disney engineers decided they could salvage it, so they bought it and cut it up into smaller sections. The old bridge parts were then loaded on barges and towed to shipyard in Tampa. From there it was painstakingly re-built to Disney's standards and put into use.

Today when you cross the Intracoastal in Wabasso, you see Orchid Island, the Atlantic Ocean and the Disney Vero Beach Resort from the high “arch” of the modern bridge. And as you ride the railroad around the Magic Kingdom theme park you cross over the old Wabasso wooden swing bridge. It seems that history has forever connected the Wabasso Bridge to Disney in a lovely circle of life.

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