Mungo Park Discovers a Toll Bridge made of Bamboo in the Western Sahel, 1797

During the several years of travel in the western Sahel of Africa, Mungo Park kept detailed records of the geography as well as of the people and flora and fauna of the areas through which he traveled.

In this brief entry, he describes the construction of a floating bridge that must yearly be re-built following the rainy season, and which he sketches in the following print.  In this picture, he also draws in himself (lower right corner) in the act of doing the sketch of the bridge.

This may be the earliest description of a toll bridge – at least, in Africa.

Crossing a bridge, from: Travels in the interior districts of Africa in the years 1795, 1796, 1797.

Crossing a bridge, from: Mungo Park, Travels in the interior districts of Africa in the years 1795, 1796, 1797.  Source –

Two tall trees [bamboo stalks], when tied together by the tops, are sufficiently long to reach from one side to the other, the roots resting upon the rocks, and the tops floating in the water.  When a few trees have been placed in this direction, they are covered with dry bamboos, so as to form a floating bridge, with a sloping gangway at each end, where the trees rest upon the rocks.

This bridge is carried away every year by the swelling of the river in the rainy season, and is constantly rebuilt by the inhabitants of Manna, who, on that account, expect a small tribute from every passenger.

Source: Mungo Park – Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa  in the years 1795, 1796, 1797 – Volume 2.  London 1816.

The bamboo that Park discusses would have been  Oxytenanthera abyssinicaa drought tolerant, lowland bamboo that is found across the southern Sahel from Senegal in the west to Eritrea in the east, and down into Kenya, Tanzania, as bell as in the east of Burundi.

The condition of O. abyssinica stands in Sudan is discussed in the following blog, which summarizes work conducted with colleagues from the Kenya Forestry Research Institute and from the Sudan Forestry Corporation.  This work was supported by the National Academy of SciencesBOSTID, and led to further regional activities with participants coming from several east African countries  on similar subjects but with a larger grant base.

Sorghum ‘Stew’, Dry Land Bamboo – & Spatial Analysis in the Gum Arabic Belt of Sudan .

About dianabuja

With a group of BaTwa (pygmy) women potters, with whom we've worked to enhance production and sales of their wonderful pots - fantastic for cooking and serving. To see the 2 blogs on this work enter 'batwa pots' into the search engine located just above this picture. Blog entries throughout this site are about Africa, as well as about the Middle East and life in general - reflecting over 35 years of work and research in Africa and the Middle East – Come and join me!
This entry was posted in Africa-West, Botany, Colonialism, European explorers, Explorers & exploration, Mungo Park, Research & Development and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Mungo Park Discovers a Toll Bridge made of Bamboo in the Western Sahel, 1797

  1. Pingback: More Adventures of Mungo Park, Who Describes Hunger Crops in the Western Sahel, 1797 | DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, The Middle East, Agriculture, History and Culture

  2. Pingback: The Adventures of Mary Gaunt, Alone in West Africa in 1910 | DIANABUJA'S BLOG: Africa, the Middle East, Agriculture, History & Culture

  3. lissnup says:

    Fascinating story, thank you for sharing and as always, your valuable explanation.

    Liked by 1 person

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