Back in 2011, I had an opportunity to photograph, document and film the Okoboji Bridge, which used to span the Little Sioux River, a few miles west of West Lake Okoboji. It had spanned the strait that connected West and East Lakes as the second crossing between the first (a cable-stayed span with wooden towers) and the third, a single-span arch bridge. The current span, also an arch bridge, still carries US Hwy. 71 between Okoboji and Arnolds Park.
The bridge was damaged by the flooding during my visit and it would have taken a miracle to pull it out and make the necessary repairs in order for it to return to service someday. Most truss bridges damaged by major storms and floods are usually demolished and replaced because the repair costs are “too high,” according to county engineers. However the bridge was taken off the river and dismantled, stored somewhere until an owner would reclaim it and use it for his/her purpose.
According to Mary Dreier, however, the bridge has a new owner. Butch Parks, who owns the Parks Marina conglomerate, recently purchased the bridge. According to the website,
Parks Marina on East Lake Okoboji was established in 1983 when Leo “Butch” Parks purchased the then Gibson Sporting Goods. What was once a small fishing boat sales and repair facility, has expanded into a diversified three location business, with marinas, sales, service, storage, boat rentals, pro-shops, and specialty retail stores. Parks Marina on East Lake Okoboji features the World Famous Barefoot Bar. Okoboji Boat Works on West Lake Okoboji features much of the same, along with state of the art boat slips, the world’s largest Fish House, pro-shop and clothing Boutique, and a sandy beach for families to enjoy.
Part of the Parks Marina conglomerate includes a boat sales and service store in Sioux Falls, plus the Central Emporium in Arnolds Park, a shopping mall with over a century’s worth of tradition with small shops that sell food and merchandise typical of the Lakes Region.
Now how does the Okoboji Bridge come into play?
The board of the county historical society recently did a presentation on the bridge and its history, which was well-received by many visitors. It was learned that Mr. Parks bought the bridge a while back with plans to install the crossing over a pond located just outside its East Lake Okoboji location. Already a concrete bridge is in place, according to Google Maps, yet it doesn’t mean that it is impossible to install it either in its place or elsewhere on the grounds. What is known is according to Ms. Dreier, the bridge is currently sitting on the grounds, just outside the large building which stores boats and the like, waiting to be sold and used on the lakes.
What will become of the bridge is unclear. I enquired Parks Marina about the purchase of the bridge and its future use via e-mail, only to get a no response. It could be that the headquarters is still in hibernation and it’s just a matter of a few months until I get a response. It could also be that the owner is not sure what the plans are with the bridge. But in any case, if he does respond, I have some questions for him, which includes:
Why this bridge?
What are the plans for the structure?
To be continued. But for now, enjoy the photos Ms. Dreier took for this article.
The next two entries are film clips from History in Your Backyard, a film series produced by Satolli Glassmeyer and Co. Our first one looks at the Humpback Covered Bridge in Covington, Virginia. This bridge was built in 1856 and is the oldest covered bridge in Virginia, let alone one of the oldest in the country. The bridge was one of the first to have been rehabilitated and repurposed for pedestrians, as this was done in 1957, almost 30 years since it was replaced by a truss bridge on a new alignment and later abandoned. And lastly, it was one of the first that was nominated to the National Register, as it was listed in 1969. Take a look at the video about the bridge’s history, which includes photos and some other facts. The engineering details can be found here.
Two pages changed to honor the (historic) bridges of Saxony (Germany) and Iowa.
GLAUCHAU (SAXONY), GERMANY- Two facebook webpage have been changed and henceforth will honor areas that are highly populated with historic bridges- and with that, their history, heritage and ways to keep them from becoming a memory.
The Bridges of Saxony (Die Brücken Sachsens)
The original page Friends of the Rechenhausbrücke (Bockau Arch Bridge) was changed to The Bridges of Saxony. The webpage was originally created in 2018 and was used as a platform to campaign for preserving the 150-year old structure that used to span the Zwickau Mulde River near the village of Bockau, located six kilometers southwest of Aue and 10 km south of Schneeberg in the Ore Mountains. Despite all the efforts, the bridge was torn down last year after a new span was built on a new alignment. More details can be found here.
Since then, the page was gradually modified to include, first the bridges in the western Ore Mountain region and lastly the whole of Saxony. Saxony has one of the highest number of historic bridges that exist in Germany. Many of them survived two World Wars and the Cold War all intact. Some of them are still scheduled to be either rehabilitated or replaced.
To access the facebook page and like to follow, click here.
The Historic Bridges of Iowa:
Another webpage that has been changed recently is the one for saving the Green Bridge at Jackson Street and Fifth Avenue in Des Moines. Like its Saxon predecessor, the original page was a campaign platform for saving the 1898 three-span structure built by George E. King, but whose future was in doubt due to structural concerns. Unlike its predecessor though, the bridge was saved thanks to a wide array of campaigns and fund-raisers. The bridge was restored and reopened in 2017.
Afterwards, a survey was carried out on what to do with the page. There, 70% of the respondants favored converting the page into one honoring the historic bridges in Iowa. Iowa is in the top five in terms of the highest number of bridges ages 70 and older in the US. Many of them have been preserved while others have been closed down and their futures are in doubt, like the Cascade Bridge in Burlington. Some have already been demolished despite historical status, like it happened with the Wagon Wheel Bridge in 2016. Since yesterday, the name was changed. The facebook page is now called The Historic Bridges of Iowa and it can be accessed here.
Both pages have the same mission:
1. It will be used to share photos, stories and histories of bridges in their respective areas. People wishing to post them are more than welcome to do so.
2. News articles, aside from what comes from BHC, on historic bridges are also welcome.
3. If people have books on certain bridges in the Iowa or Saxony that they wish to present on the platform, they can do so.
4. It will also be a platform for exchanging ideas involving preserving historic bridges in Iowa and Saxony. This includes any initiatives from groups that are fighting to keep their bridge instead of being demolished.
Given the political situation facing Germany/Europe and the US, no political commentaries are allowed on the respective pages. They are solely used for talking about bridges.
Like to follow on both the pages and enjoy the bridge photos, stories and the like that you will see when visiting the pages. 🙂
This Mystery Bridge entry takes us to the town of Castlewood in Hamlin County, The town is located east of the Big Sioux River, which snakes its way through the field in its infancy before it widens near Watertown. While Castlewood may be a typical rural American town, it does hold a treasure that is historically significant and one where we’re looking for.
The Castlewood Truss Bridge was a Thacher through truss bridge that had spanned the Big Sioux River southeast of town. It carries 184th street. The structure is 100 feet long with the main span having been 80 feet. The bridge was built by the King Bridge Company in 1894 under the direction of agent Milo Adams, and was the second of two bridges that was discovered and researched by the National Park Service in 1989. The second was at Yellow Bank Church Bridge in Laq Qui Parle County in neighboring Minnesota, built one year earlier. . Together with the Ellworth Ranch Bridge in Emmet County, Iowa, the Castlewood Bridge represented an example of the hybrid form of the Thacher Truss Bridge, which was patented by Edwin Thacher in 1881.
The bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on December 9th, 1993, yet the bridge was replaced on a new alignment by a low-water crossing in the summer of 1990. According to recent satellite view, the Thacher Truss structure is no-more. All that is left are the wing-walls and the lally columns on the west bank of the river.
This leads us to the main question: What happened to the bridge?
Research in newspaper articles and correspondences have thus far come up with nothing concrete. The exception was the plan to replace the bridge in 1989 after reports revealed that the structure was rusting and no longer able to carry traffic, which ran parallel to the research into the bridge’s historic significance. Bridgehunter.com had pinpointed the replacement date as sometime after June 1990, even though the article mentioned August 1990 as its planned replacement date.
This leads us to why the Castlewood Bridge was listed before the end of 1993. According to the National Register of Historic Places, any historic structure can be listed on the register if they comply to the requirements of historic significance. Once it’s listed, then grants and funding are made available for restoring and protecting the place, and it is next to impossible to demolish the historic place unless plausible arguments are made justifying it, which includes understanding the consequences of destroying it, which is its delisting. If the Castlewood Bridge was demolished for any reason, the bridge would be delisted from the National Register, and all records pertaining to its nomination, history and the like would be archived and made unavailable for researchers. If the bridge was replaced before its nomination in 1993, why list the structure to begin with? And if it was destroyed after its listing in 1993, why is it still listed?
This leads us to the question of what happened to the Castlewood Bridge. One has to assume that the bridge was dismantled and put into storage to be reused elsewhere. This was what happened to the Yellow Bank Church Bridge, and the truss bridge now has a new home at the historic village park south of Hastings in Minnesota. Its role is mimicking the Famous Hastings Spiral Bridge, the first bridge in the world with a loop approach. With regards to the Castlewood Bridge, the question is: Where’s the bridge? And will it be reused somewhere, if it has not been re-erected already? If the bridge no longer exist, then the question is 1. Why justify its existence on the National Register, and 2. Were any bridge parts been preserved as a historical marker?
The research about the bridge’s fate has not born any fruit to date. Therefore, the question goes straight to the locals of Hamlin County, South Dakota and the residents of Castlewood with this in mind:
Australian Traveller that loves to "Roam" our globe, creator of ENDLESSROAMING.COM sharing the experience through word and photography. Currently residing in my home of Newtown Sydney but hope to be back on the road late 2020. Feedback / questions are more than welcome, happy travels