Mystery Bridge Nr. 64: The Rock Valley Kiwanis Railroad Bridge

Photo taken in 1998 by the author

Our next mystery bridge takes us to Rock Valley, Iowa, located along the Rock River in Sioux County, and this bridge, located on the west end of town. Locally known as the Kiwanis Bridge, my discovery of the bridge dated back to 1998, where during a Spring Break trip from college, I took my Ford F 250 pickup and went along the Rock River from Pipestone County all the way to its confluence with the Big Sioux River north of Hawarden. The Kiwanis Bridge was one of a dozen pre-1945 bridges I found during that time. When walking across it for the first time, I noticed that the wooden trestle approach spans on the east end was much older than the piers holding the Pratt through truss span in place across the river.  Also interesting to note was how the trusses were configured. Consisting of riveted and pinned-connections and Howe Lattice portal and strut bracings, the end posts on the outer ends of the truss spans have a 60° angle, whereas the middle pier in the main span consists of vertical end posts that do NOT meet. One of the first impressions I had was that the bridge was relocated from elsewhere, but was altered to accommodate the spans over the Rock River. At the time of the photos, the river was running wildly with march areas on both sides of the river.


I wrote a letter to the City of Rock Valley and received a confirmation by William Van Maanen, a city council member at that time, that the bridge was indeed relocated to Rock Valley. His father Gerrit had been involved in the relocation efforts in the early 1920s and noted that the original railroad crossing, owned by the Milwaukee Road (Chicago, Milwaukee and Pacific Railroad), consisted of wooden trestle spans, and the truss spans were brought in to replace the ones that were obstructing the flow of the river, causing flooding upstream.


Fast forward to 2015, where the author is residing in Germany, but another pontist, John Marvig, is also looking for some information on this bridge. During his visit in December 2015, he found that the marsh area along the Rock River has been converted to residential areas with sidewalks and all. The bridge is still there, but the mystery of where the bridge came from is still open. The Milwaukee Road museum provided the building date of 1913, the time when standardized truss bridges with riveted connections were being introduced, but the hunches are that the bridge used to be a swing span, only to be altered when being put into place.


This leads to the following questions to be resolved:

  1. Where was the bridge originally located and when was it relocated here?
  2. Who was the bridge builder?
  3. Was the bridge originally a swing span or part of a major crossing?


We must keep in mind that according to William Van Maanen based on the accounts of his father as well as his own personal experience, the Milwaukee Road abandoned the line in the late 1950s and efforts were made to buy the bridge in an attempt to preserve it. The question here is when this happened and when were the renovations made? The bridge was named after the Kiwanis Club in Rock Valley, which bought the bridge and spearheaded efforts to convert it into a recreational crossing. A job that was well done and one that will keep the bridge in service for a very long time, especially as more people reside on the west side of Rock Valley.


If you know of any further information on the Kiwanis Bridge and would like to help answer the questions, please do. The channels are open on the part of the Chronicles as well as John Marvig’s Railroad Bridge Photography website and Your help and photos would be very much appreciated, as many people would like to know more about the bridge’s history. A gallery of photos of the bridge are below, but there are more via link, which you can click here to view.  Happy Bridgehunting and Researching! 🙂


East trestle and truss bridge. Photo taken in 1998


Oblique view of the west end of the bridge. Photo taken by John Marvig in 2015


Side view of the bridge. Note the vertical end posts in the middle of the span. Photo taken by John Marvig in 2015


Tunnel view. Photo taken in 2015 by John Marvig


bhc new logo jpeg

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