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Monkey Bridge Construction

By William Hillcourt, National Director of Scoutcraft

Reprinted from Boy's Life for all boys, March 26, 1998

The construction of a MONKEY Bridge is a pioneering feat that will thrill your gang. The monkey-type
of bridge has the advantage over the usual pioneering bridge that it can he used to span a much
greater distance--up to one hundred feet.
Baden-Powell brought the idea from India. There he had seen the natives in the Himalayan
mountains make "bridges out of three ropes . . . connected together so that one rope: forms the
footpath and the others make the handrail on each side." He drew a picture of such a bridge and
described it in Scouting for Boys. It wouldn't be much fun to cross this kind of swaying bridge over a
deep mountain chasm, but it's fun in camp where the worst you could get out of a slip would be a
Pictures below
The Shears
The Ropes
Determine the length of the main ropes
Lay out the Ropes
Attach the Stringers
Lay out the Shears
Lash the Shears
Drive shear anchors
Install ropes and shears
Install shear pad
Attach Foot ropes
Attach Hand ropes
Give ropes final tightening
Three long manila ropes are required. The foot rope should he one inch in diameter, the hand ropes
one-half inch. The ropes should be about thirty feet longer than the width of the river to provide
enough length for anchoring. The stringers are made of one-quarter inch rope. As they are placed
three feet apart, you will get the number of them by dividing the length of the bridge span by three. In
Addition, you will need quarter-inch rope for lashings.
The wood part of the construction consists of four logs for shear legs, twelve feet long, four inches
thick, and two cross pieces, three inches thick, four to five feet long.
To do an effective job, divide the gang into two teams--one team to make the shear legs, the other to
lay out the ropes ad attach the stringers. When these two jobs are done, the whole gang works
together on the erection of the bridge.
A Patrol can build a Monkey Bridge during an afternoon in camp or on a whole-day hike--and that's
real pioneering.
When constructing monkey bridges, observe the following safety rules:
1. Always follow the steps for constructing monkey bridges outlined in the Pioneering merit badge

2. Before beginning the project, inspect your rope, looking at both the inside fibers and inner
strands. Know the size and strength of the type of rope you are using, and its safe working load.

3. Monkey bridges should not be constructed higher than 5 feet above flat-surfaced ground nor
longer than 40 feet. Initially, beginners should not span more than 25 feet.

4. Know the effect the knots will have in reducing rope strength and the proper care that rope

5. Rope, especially rope carrying a load, should be checked each day before using. Rope
carrying a load and left in place tends to become slack from fatigue and will break under stress.
Tighten rope as necessary to maintain the integrity of the original construction.

6. Exercise special care when members of the public are allowed to use these monkey bridges.
Establish controls when monkey bridges are constructed outside the camp environment. Station
Scouts at each end to control access to the bridge. Allow only one adult at a time on the bridge.
Never allow unaccompanied children on the bridge. Shut down the bridge when any repairs are being
made and do not reopen until the adult leader has approved the repairs.

7. Any activity on rope swings, monkey bridges, slide-for- life, or similar devices that are located
over water must comply with Safe Swim Defense.

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