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What is a Drawbridge? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Drawbridges are movable bridges that can be found in many locations throughout the world. In this lesson, learn about the structure and design of modern drawbridges, find out why they are used, and identify some famous drawbridges around the globe.

History of Drawbridges

When someone refers to medieval history, what comes to mind? Most likely you imagine big castles with surrounding moats of water for defense and a large structure called a drawbridge made to cross the moat. This is definitely how drawbridges were used in times past, but did you know that we still use drawbridges today? Let's find out about today's drawbridges and how and why they are used.

Modern Day Structures

So what exactly is a modern day drawbridge? Simply put, it's any bridge that can be moved so that it becomes unusable for a period of time.

There are two main purposes of a drawbridge. The first use is probably pretty obvious. Just like all bridges, drawbridges allow cars and people to cross over large bodies of water. The other purpose is what makes a drawbridge unique: when it moves, river traffic is not blocked and therefore can flow easily.

This drawbridge in Chicago is raised to allow boats to travel down the river.
drawbridge

Types of Drawbridges

There are several different types of drawbridges. The first type is called a lift bridge, and you can find a clue about how it works in its name. Wooden boards called planks are joined together by rope to create the bridge, and these planks are raised and lowered. Today's lift bridges are usually moved by machines, because they are large and heavy.

A bascule (pronounced bas-kyool) bridge is a type of drawbridge that is divided and lifted up in the air vertically. When it is lifted, it almost looks like an upside down letter 'V'. These bridges can't handle a lot of weight, so heavy trucks might not be allowed to drive on a bascule bridge.

A bascule bridge that has been lifted
draw bridge

Another type of drawbridge is a swing bridge. Again, its name tells us how it works. This type of drawbridge can swing around, or rotate, in order to let boats and water traffic pass through.

Drawbridges Around the World

You can pretty much travel to any country in the world and find a drawbridge. However, there are some that are more famous than others. One of the most famous drawbridges is the Tower Bridge in London, which crosses the Thames River.

The Tower Bridge in London, with the bridge raised to allow boats to pass
Tower Bridge

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