The 85th Pic of the Week takes us to a lone relict of history in the State of Iowa. The Kirby-Flynn Bridge is the only bridge of its kind that is left in Palo Alto County in north central Iowa. The six-panel Pratt through truss bridge features A-framed portal bracings and pinned connections. The truss span itself is 121 feet with the total length being 161 feet. The bridge was built in 1883 but was relocated here in 1919 as part of the project to dredge and rechannel the West Branch Des Moines River. At that time, as many as 20 bridges had spanned the river and its snake-like flow. As flat as the county was, vast areas at and within a 10 mile width of the river had been prone to flooding. This bridge was one of an additional 14 spans that were needed to span the new channel, whereas an undisclosed number of original bridges- namely wooden and iron crossings were either replaced or removed.
When I first visited the bridge in 1998, the truss span was in very bad shaped with missing and/or broken wooden decking, damages to the stringers and railings and lots of rust. My original prediction had been that the structure would eventually have been removed due to damage or neglect. In fact, a fire caused by fireworks in 2006 surely would have sealed the bridge’s fate.
However, fast forward to 2010 and one can see that Kirby Flynn is still standing. The bridge was given a thorough make-over, which included new decking, new steel columns for the endposts, new painting and a clearance bar to ensure that no trucks would cross. The project lasted a year, and the bridge was reopened in April 2010.
This photo was taken during my visit in August 2010. I was revisiting some of the bridges I had photographed 12 years earlier and was taken aback at the work that was done at this bridge. The photo was taken in the late afternoon with no cloud in the sky. This scene was symbolic for two reasons: 1. A movement towards preserving and restoring many historic bridges was in full swing, as a response to the increase in the demolition of bridges that were unwanted in the name of progress yet there were louder responses from those wanting to save them for future generations. While the movement to save historic bridges started by Eric Delony and company in the 1970s, it didn’t really gain as much momentum until the early 2000s, thanks to the rise of information technology, especially the internet but also later social media. With that came the exchange of information and preservation techniques that made restoring bridges easier to do.
This brings us to number 2. The Kirby Flynn as a poster boy of what can be done if there are enough expertise and interest in saving it. One could cleanse the county of all the bridges and have bland pieces of concrete in their places. Yet many in the county wanted this bridge because of its history. It’s an artefact that is part of the county’s history and one where a field trip with some stories behind the bridge’s history, let alone the restoration is worth it.
Even in my visit to this bridge, the structure shone brighter than it did during my visit in 1998 which made it and the photo taken worth it. Sometimes a quick stop off the highway for the purpose of a photo opp. will bring you surprises you would least expect it.
And like the visit to the bridge, the surprises you encounter and the education behind your discoveries and observations are well worth it.
Learn more about this bridge by clicking here: http://bridgehunter.com/ia/palo-alto/brushy-bayou/