A Bow over the Big Wood

From Dump to Riverside Attraction

Story and Photos by Karen Bossick

The autumn sun filtered through towering trees as I shuffled through the leaves on the floor of the eighty-acre Draper Preserve in Hailey. Suddenly, I came upon a sixteen-foot steel arrow with three-foot fletches sticking out of the ground.

“What the—?”

As I studied the arrow, it became apparent that it was pointing to a new bridge spanning the Big Wood River. But this was not just any bridge. It was a beautifully crafted structure of Douglas fir in the shape of a bow. A recurve bow, to be precise—a target precision-shooting bow, with wingtips that curve away from the archer when the bow is strung, to give the arrow more acceleration.

The 160-foot Bow Bridge’s designer, Sun Valley resident Leslie Howa, stood on it squinting into the sun as she sized up the twenty-pound leaf made of galvanized steel that Erik Nilsen was about to hang from its rafters. “I told the Wood River Land Trust I’m not a bridge builder, but I have an idea for a design like no other,” she told me as she took a breather.

Leslie, who studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, was for years a designer of backcountry and other outdoor clothing for large corporations. She helped start a clothing company that specializes in mountaineering and climbing wear, even while doing industrial community art projects on the side for cities like Ogden, Utah. The bridge, designed for the Wood River Land Trust, helps fulfill a dream that the trust’s director, Scott Boettger, has held of beautifying this area of river ever since he moved here in 1997.

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