Tree Falls on Skunk River Bridge

Photos taken in August 2011

AMES, IOWA-  The Cambridge Bridge, located at Ken Maril Road spanning the Skunk River in the south of Ames, is one of a few abandoned historic bridges that has received its lion’s share of visitors. Whether it is a runner crossing it as part of his round, a fisherman using it to catch a good bite, or a photographer stopping to get a few shots, the bridge is popular among locals, even if it has been abandoned for almost 25 years now. The bridge features an iron through truss bridge with a Warren design plus a riveted steel pony truss with a subdivided Warren design. The through truss was built in 1876 originally at a mill near Cambridge, located four miles south of Ames. Its builder was the King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The bridge spanned the Skunk River and was 80 feet long. After 40 years of service, the bridge was relocated north to Ames to span the same river but to accommodate residents  living in the southern part of the city. There the 80-foot pony truss span was added, making the total length of the bridge to be 163 feet. The bridge continued to serve traffic until its closure in 1990. Up until now, the bridge has literally remained in place, with pedestrians and cyclists using the structure on a regular basis. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1998 as the iron span is the oldest of its kind left in Iowa.

Jogger running towards the bridge.

Now its future is in doubt after a tree fell onto the bridge. It is unknown when or how it happened, but one of the photographers recently visited the bridge during his bridgehunting tour through Iowa and found a couple trees that had fallen on the pony truss span. The damage appears to be minor as bent railings and dents in the truss span were reported. In addition, some tree parts are leaning against one of the piers, causing the decking to be uneven. Photos of the damage can be found here (photos 59-67).  This is leading to questions as to how to remove the debris without further damaging or even destroying the structure. Furthermore, discussion will most likely be brought up as to how to deal with the bridge in the future- whether it should be repaired and left open to pedestrian traffic or if it should be relocated to one of the parks in and around Ames. The city and the county historical society is looking into this matter in hopes that a solution can be found as soon as possible. Given its status on the National Register, it is highly unlikely that the bridge will be torn down. However, with as much use as this bridge has had since its closure, officials know that doing nothing is not an option and whatever action is taken, will require input from local residents and those associated with the bridge.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments. In the meantime, as a bonus, enjoy the photos and an earlier article written by Luke Harden on the bridges in Ames, which includes a further write-up on this bridge.