Mystery Bridge Nr. 115: A box culvert with a very unique design


ELDORADO, IOWA- Approximately 300 feet west of the Eldorado Truss Bridge, one will find a unique diamond in the rough. Located along the north bank of the Turkey River, the first impression that I had during my visit to the bridge in 2011 (see my previous post) was that there may have been a previous crossing- like most of the bridges in Iowa- whether it was a bowstring arch bridge, a truss bridge built of iron or even a covered bridge. One of these three would have clearly fit the description given the need to cross the river from one bluff to another. However, looking at it more closely, especially at the wingwalls and abutments, it is clearly a concrete beam bridge. Unique is the art deco design on the beam span, which is almost a giveaway as to determining what bridge it is. The beam span has two rectangular shapes with a diamond shape in the middle. Most beam bridges and culverts used geometric shapes on their concrete railings when they were introduced for use beginning in 1910, which puts this structure’s build date right into the area of the first two decades of the 20th century. Spanning a creek that empties right into the river, the span is between 15 and 30 feet, which is typical for a box culvert or short-span beam bridge.


The road that the bridge used to carry seems to have gone along the Turkey River and its north shore, having crossed the river twice- one near the site of Orange Ave. Bridge and one at the crossing at Great River Road. Both of them are two miles apart. While the stretch west of the Eldorado Truss Bridge remains in use as 292nd Street it dead ends at a farmstead before the Turkey River crossing. Only a small stretch east of the bridge exists and while much of it has been removed for farmland, one can trace it to the cylinder piers (or lally columns) of the former crossing that is next to Great River Road. A map on the Eldorado Truss Bridge page can help you trace ist origins (click here).

This leads to the following question to be cleared up:

  1. When exactly was the bridge built and by whom?
  2. When was the street, now known as 292nd Street, built and where did it lead to?
  3. What do we know about the former crossings at Great River Road and Orange Avenue, where the former road crossed before joining other streets? We do know with the lally columns at the Great River crossing it was a through truss bridge but what type is unknown…
  4. When was the street and the bridge abandoned?


Any photos, stories and history behind this unique bridge and road would be much appreciated. There are three ways to do it: by e-mail, using the contact info here. By posting in the comment section. And by posting in one of the facebook pages:

Abandoned Iowa Images

The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles (group/webpage)

Save the Green Bridge (now known as Historic Bridges of Iowa)


NOTE: For the third page, the platform has changed after a successful campaign to save the truss bridge spanning the Raccoon River. The page now focuses on historic bridges in Iowa, which includes truss and bowstring arch bridges as well as others. Click onto the link and like to follow. Despite facebook’s insistence on keeping the old name, it will eventually change to reflect on the focus on historic bridges in the state.

All photos taken in 2011.



Mystery Bridge Nr. 112: A double-barreled concrete bridge that used to serve a major road?


This is the first video podcast of the bridge. The bridge is between 90 and 110 years old, spans a tributary of the River Zschopau south of Wolkenstein in central Saxony in the suburb of Niederau. The rest can be found by clicking here.






1. When was the bridge built? Who was the bridge builder?

2. What kind of road did it serve and what industries existed in the area of the bridge?



Flooding Washes Out 1960s Era Viaduct in Texas

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Lake LBJ/Llano River Crossing connecting Kingsland Washed Out by Flash Floods. No Casualties Reported.

Sometimes communities have one key crossing that is considered an icon to some but to the most, the lifeline that connects families and brings families together. The Kingsland Crossing is that key icon that keeps the community of Kingsland in central Texas together. Built in 1969 to replace a multiple-span Parker through truss Bridge, this 1200-foot Long, multiple-span concrete stringer bridge carries Texas Highway 2900 and connects the community to the North and the areas to the south, including Sunrise Beach Village. The river it spans is actually a lake that was created in 1950 under the name Granite Lake Shoals, where the Llamo and Colorado Rivers meet. Yet the lake was renamed after Lyndon B. Johnson, the US President who succeeded John F. Kennedy after he was assassinated on 22 November, 1963.

Sadly as of 16 October, 2018, the Kingsland Crossing is no more. Floodwaters that afternoon washed out 80% of the entire bridge after it had flowed over the roadways. No one was on the Bridge at that time as it had been closed off. Water levels in the region rose to over 13 feet above flood stage, thus forcing the evacuations of hundreds along the area. One person has been reported dead as of this post. A pair of videos shows the bridge as it was being carried away by the floodwaters as well as drone footage of the bridge remnants after flood levels had receded:

There is no word yet as to how much damage the flooding has inflicted in the area nor how people will be able to access the area temporarily until a new span is built. This Bridge should not be mistaken for another Kingsland Bridge that exists, which is The Slab. Built during the era of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the low-water crossing spans the Llamo River over granite cliffs, etc. at Highway 3404 and is a popular attraction for sunbathers, swimmers and hikers. Even though the Slab is flooded on various occasions, it is unknown whether it survived this flood. More news will come as the river levels go down and people survey the damage and casualties.

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Kingsland has a population of 4,600 inhabitants and is located 65 miles northwest of Austin, the state capital of Texas. The nearest City is Llano., which is 20 miles to the southeast. Kingsland is famous for the Grand Central Cafe Restaurant and Club Car Bar, the site where the Horror film Texas Chainsaw Massacre was produced in the 1980s. The Slab can be see in this clip below:



World’s Oldest Concrete Bridge turns 75

Photo taken by Frank Selke, used with permission

Concrete bridges- today’s modern bridge types you see while travelling. Made of granular materials that is bound together by cement (crushed rock with burnt lime), concrete existed as far back as the period of the Roman Empire and used for infrastructures and buildings, many of which can still be found today when travelling through the regions of southern and eastern Europe once dominated by the likes of Caesar.  Concrete was first used for closed spandrel arch bridges, but its expanded usage can be found in the first three decades of the 20th century, when concrete was used for open spandrel arches, Marsh arches, slabs, girders and Luten arches– with the oval shaped arch span.

In Germany, concrete was used for the Autobahn motorways in the 1920s with several concrete slabs resembling square-shaped arches being built along the highway connecting Berlin and Munich.  But they were not the only types that were used.  In 1938, shortly before the start of World War II, a new concrete bridge type was introduced in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia: the prestressed, pretensioned concrete girder bridge, known to Germans as the Spannbetonbrücke.  The concept was invented by a French engineer, Eugéne Freyssinet (1879- 1962), where tensile steel rods are inserted into the concrete bridge to provide compressive stress as a complement to tensile stress that is normally exerted onto the concrete through live load on the bridge as well as through weather extremities (concrete expanding in warm weather and compressing in cold weather).

The concept was first used on an Autobahn overpass between Beckum and Oelde, located near the cities of Hamm and Münster in eastern North Rhine-Westphalia. There four different girders were assembled in a way that they were placed in a prestressed steel encasing and supported by I-beam suspenders. They were then fasted together and placed over the Autobahn A2, and crossing was open to traffic on 12 November, 1938. Albeit the bridge was 40 meters long, this concept was later used for spans up to three times the length. Gotthard Franz (1904-1991) of the firm Wayss and Freitag oversaw the construction using the Freyssinet concept, together with the French engineer himself, who later built several bridges of this kind, including the Railway Station Bridge in Aue (Saxony) as well as bridges in Hamburg, Kiel and Brunsbuttel (near the Baltic-North Sea Canal). The concept was later used in other countries, including the US, where one can see many of these bridges built from the 1980s onwards crossing ravines and roads today.

The Beckum-Oelde (Hesseler Weg) Overpass served traffic for 74 years until it was relocated to a rest area last year. Because it was declared a national technical landmark (technische Denkmal) in 1991, the demolition of the bridge was not allowed. Today, one can see the historic landmark, hoisted by two modern concrete piers at the rest area in Vellern-Süd.  The overpass signaled the beginning of innovation and proliferation of concrete bridges, something that would happen beginning in the 1950s, when the shortage of steel because of its usage in World War combined with the destruction of steel mills in Germany and Europe prompted the creativity of engineers to find ways to build crossings using other materials. Concrete was cheap and using the design of inventors like Freyssinet, the 1950s marked the beginning of the proliferation of concrete bridges, first used to replace structures destroyed in the war, and later used to replaced functionally obsolete bridges made of iron and steel, as seen in the US and Canada. While Freyssinet is not to blame for the invention but more to thank for ushering the era of concrete bridges, we have the honor of introducing the age of modernization, something that we still see today on our city streets and highways.

Author’s note: Nicolas Janberg wrote an article about this bridge, which you can click here.  The bridge is one of many listed as candidates for the 2013 Ammann Awards for Bridge of the Year and Best Example of a Preserved Historic Bridge. Thanks to Frank Selke for the use of his photo.



Mystery Bridge Nr. 32: A Bridge in a Lake

Photos taken in August 2013

Our next mystery bridge takes us back to Marion County, Iowa and precisely to this bridge. Located on the north side of Red Rock Lake just east of Hwy. 14, one finds this unique structure. From a bird’s eye perspective, the bridge is low enough that it may be considered a pontoon bridge. But it does seem weird that the roadway is low enough that it is on the same level as the water level of Red Rock Lake, making it prone to flooding. Yet looks can be deceiving. Have a look at the following pictures of the bridge when up close….

Judging by these angles, one can see that the bridge and road have not been used for a long time. These are the remnants of the old Hwy. 14 Bridge and highway, all of which are either partially or completely inundated by the waters of Red Rock Lake.

Here are some facts we do know about these remains. There were at least two bridges that carried the old highway (but guesses are three or four): this one and the Des Moines River crossing. Both of which were built in the 1940s replacing earlier structures that were most likely steel truss bridges. But this happened before plans for Red Rock Lake were revealed in the 1950s, sentencing this highway and the bridges, together with a dozen other bridges and at least six towns located along the Des Moines River to be inundated. While the removal and relocation of some structures in the area were successful, other streets and some places like this one were left to be covered in water. The new Highway 14 Bridge was opened in 1965 and featured three bridges, the longest one is over a mile long, making it the longest bridge in the state. Once the bridges were opened and the Red Rock Dam, located 10 miles east of there was completed, all of the obsolete Hwy. 14 and its bridges were left to be taken over by water. Today, once can access this bridge and the highway remains on the north end by foot only as well as fish from the bridge- a piece of history to be reminded of what the region looked like before Red Rock Lake was created.

What is missing about this bridge and old highway is the history: namely what the bridges and road looked like before they were inundated. Furthermore, information is needed about their construction history and the truss bridges that existed prior to their replacement in the 1940s. Photos and any information are welcomed. If you have any information that is useful, please send it to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at You can also put your thoughts about the bridge in the comments section here as well as on facebook. More photos of the bridge and region can be found by clicking here.

The Chronicles will provide some information on this bridge as it comes.

Bear Tavern Bridge and the Washington Victory Trail gone- or is it?

This is a painting of the bridge, made in 2009 before the bridge was closed to traffic in 2009. Courtesy of Roni Browne Katz

Here’s a pop quiz to start off the article: When was the Revolutionary War in the United States? When did George Washington cross the Delaware River and in which New Jersey city did a pivotal battle take place? And lastly, which areas did Washington’s troops march through before that particular battle took place?  The answers you’ll find in bold and cursive print.
In the past 15 years and even more so since the Minneapolis Bridge disaster of 2007, there has been an increase in tendency for politicians and local government agencies to make haste in replacing historic bridges, despite their historical significance and the pleas of the local people to restore it for future use. Many of these people either have little or no expertise in historic preservation policies that exist, let alone have insufficient knowledge in the environmental impacts that take place when replacing a historic bridge in contrast to restoring it. In worst case scenario, debates over the future of the historic bridge divide the communities up by taking sides on the issue. In some cases, (emergency) elections to replace candidates are carried out using the historic bridge as a political toy to ensure that either one side or the other has it their own way.
The Bear Tavern Bridge over Jacob’s Creek in Hopewell Township in western New Jersey represents the crassest example of how a place of historic interest can divide up a community, let alone state for various reasons, four of which are presented here in this article:
First fact: The debate involves not only the historic bridge, but also a natural area with high historical value. The bridge itself was built in 1882 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio, during the era of its founder, Zenas King. It is the oldest bridge built in Mercer County and one whose truss design differs from others that were built at that time. It features a Pratt half-hip through truss design. A half-hip means that the outermost panels (the end post and first vertical beam) are half as long as the remaining panels on the bridge, thus having a trapezoidal design with the end posts having a 60° angle instead of 45°. These were most common with pony truss bridges as they were used for short crossings. For a through truss bridge, it was seldom used, and the Bear Tavern is one of the last remaining bridges left in the country that has this design. The portal bracing of the bridge was one of the first built and would start a trend where Town lattice portals were phased out in favor of beam portals as well as those using alphabets, such as the famous A-frame portal found on truss bridges built between 1890 and 1930. The bridge was one of a handful of bridges that survived the onslaught of Hurricane Irene last summer, despite being closed to traffic since September 2009.

The natural surrounding is the site of the famous march led by George Washington, who together with General Knox and Lt. James Monroe, directed an army of 2,400 soldiers to the battle of Trenton on 26 December, 1776, five months after the Declaration of Independence of 4 July, 1776 and a year and a half after the war started in April 1775.  The army crossed the Delaware River on the night of the 25-26 December, 1776,  defeated the Hessian soldiers at Trenton before crossing the Delaware River after the battle. The army would eventually capture Trenton on 2 January, 1777 and went on to defeat the English troops at Princeton. The battle of Trenton was the turning point of the war, as the Americans won the war six years later on 3 September, 1783. There was a trail named after the famous battle known as Victory Trail but the section near Bear Tavern is the last natural trail left. Residents fear that a new bridge would be an eye sore to the natural area, which would be altered beyond recognition. Yet the pleas have fallen on deaf ears of county commissioners, who have wanted a new crossing and new alignment for a long time….

Second fact: According to the organization wanting to save the Bear Tavern Bridge and the natural portion of Victory Trail, the drive for a new bridge and alignment has been on the minds of Mercer County for 82 years! That means the first proposal for a new bridge was introduced in 1930, even though the bridge was 48 years old and still serviceable at that time. In the many years that the author has been busying himself with the topic of bridges (25 years to be exact), there never has been such a long debate over the future of a historic bridge. In fact the average amount of time needed to discuss the need for a new bridge, carry out the surveys needed and find alternatives to replacing the historic bridge targeted for replacement is approximately 5 years.  While there has been no real reason why the drive for a new bridge has dragged on for such a long time, it is assumed that officials wanted to convert a T-intersection into one where the road curves to the bridge with a right side turn-off onto a street prior to entering the crossing. The Bear Tavern Bridge’s main handicap is its vertical clearance of approximately 12-13 feet, but the bridge is wide enough to accommodate two lanes of traffic, yet the county feels that a new bridge would bring more traffic and commerce to the Bear Tavern area, something the people of the area are against, and have been since 1930.

Third fact: A lot of political tactics and activities deemed illegal were carried out mostly by those favoring a new bridge as a way of swaying the public towards a new bridge. This includes the disregard of environmental impact surveys, which includes safely removing lead from the truss through sandblasting. There were reports of flakes of paint landing into Jacob’s Creek containing high amounts of lead and possibly arsenic. While the removal of paint was important for removing the truss span, it was not done in a safe manner with fears that chemicals would invade the ground water. But this was one of many incidences that occurred during the entire debate; especially in the five years prior to the bridge’s removal last year in October 2011. The debate sparked the drive for greed, lies and misinformation on the part of those wanting to replace the bridge, resulting in mistrust among the community. Elections in 2010 did not help the situation as the officials elected were running a choreographed line directed by the proponents of the new bridge.  Furthermore, the county tried successfully to overrun the state’s recommendation of restoring the bridge instead of cooperating, resulting in the question of how much authority the county should have in comparison to the state. This includes ignoring the suggestions made by the state historical society to restore the bridge because of its conditions. In the last proposal to introduce the new crossing in July 2012, the state department of transportation stepped aside from the issue for unknown reasons.

Fourth fact: The question of what to do with the bridge still remains to be seen. News reports in October 2011 claim that the bridge will be refurbished and re-erected on site, yet the county recently has given the green light for a 200 foot concrete bridge on a new alignment and with a 60 foot retaining wall, which will forever alter the Victory Trail site beyond recognition. This puts the future of the bridge in doubt, for even though it sits in storage waiting to be restored and rebuilt, the question is whether it makes sense from this point on. And if it does make sense to restore it and rebuild it, where would the bridge be rebuilt? After all, its old place will be taken over by a hunk of concrete and its natural relationship with nature and history has been severed permanently. The bridge may have a new life elsewhere, but for many in the Bear Tavern area, it will always be associated with George Washington’s march on Trenton and how it changed the dynamics of the war for independence.

I would like to close this article with a comment made by one of the Bear Tavern residents, who favored the replacement of the bridge: “In five years, we will have forgotten about the whole thing.” We may have forgotten a lot of our own history we learned in high school, which is a cardinal sin in itself. It is a capital sin to forget about the history of our own backyard. For Bear Tavern Bridge, to forget the bridge would mean to be ignorant of the community’s own past, which eventually comes back with a vengeance many years from now, even if the truss bridge has a life elsewhere. But the crime that will leave scars on the face of history is how the region will be altered thanks to the people who spent 82 years to make it happen. These scars will remain for many generations to come and will be talked about in private circles and elsewhere.

More information about the Bear Tavern Bridge can be seen here, including contact information in case you have any questions or suggestions:  Photos of the bridge taken by many members of the Bear Tavern Bridge group can be seen here.