Bridgehunter Chronicles Update 30 November 2012

Waterford Bridge in Dakota County, Minnesota. Photo taken in August 2011

As the month of November comes to an end, so will be the month where all kinds of crazy events that has happened, which has to do with historic bridges and ways to preserve or destroy them. Apart from the most heinous decision not to consider a bowstring arch bridge in Nebraska a historic structure- which effectively cleared the last hurdle to tear down the pedestrian bridge which has been sitting abandoned, there are some other notables that are worth putting down here in the Chronicles’ News Flyer, along with a pair of good news and some mystery bridge items which have come to light. 

Without further ado, let us start off with the fishy part:

Vandals get the best of Ghost Bridge in Alabama:

Spanning Cypress Creek in Lauderdale County, Alabama this bridge is one of the most haunted historic bridges in the country as it was the scene of four murders and several lynchings in the past, and people can still see apparitions and strange lights when crossing the structure. Yet the 1912 Pratt through truss bridge and its history is scheduled to come down soon, as vandals have used the bridge for gatherings, leaving garbage at the scene and using the bridge decking for firewood. Despite it being considered historic by the state historical society, the county commission may have the final say in this matter because of liability issues……

Enochs Knob Bridge to come down in December

Like the Ghost Bridge in Alabama, the Franklin County, Missouri structure, featuring a Parker through truss bridge and built in 1908 was the scene of two murders, but several ghostly encounters, such as green dogs, trolls, ghosts of people killing themselves and others, and other abnormalities. While the Ghost Bridge received attention because of its dire state thanks to the vandals, this bridge was the struggle of many attempts to save as a historical marker, but unfortunately to no avail. Construction commenced on its replacement this summer, and the bridge will be removed as soon as the new bridge opens next month. However, as the bridge is still available for purchase through the local contractor, according to recent correspondence, there is a chance that the truss bridge may get a new lease on life, if one is willing to handle its history. More information about this opportunity can be found through this contact detail:



The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles wrote a piece on this bridge, which can be viewed here.


Des Moines Railroad Bridge coming down in pieces

In connection with the most recent article on the collapse of two bridges and the removal of one, here is some unfortunate news on one of the bridges profiled in the article, the Chicago and Great Western Bridge over the Des Moines River in Des Moines.  Due to flooding issues that has plagued the capital of Iowa in recent years (including the 2008 floods), the city decided to take action to raise the dikes along the river in down town, but at the expense of the four-span through truss bridge.  This is perhaps the most logical decision given the dire state the bridge was in. According to a recent visit by John Marvig, parts of the flooring was missing due to vandalism and flooding. Bridge parts rusted and corroded to a point where new parts would be needed. And even worse, the piers on the western side of the river were crumbling at an alarming rate, setting up the stage of parts of the bridge to collapse under its own weight.  Since its abandonment in 2001, there had been plans to convert it into a bike trail, but was scrapped because of its condition and flooding issues. Demolition, consisting of removing the flooring and bringing down the truss spans individually using tow cables, commenced at the beginning of the month, and the removal should be completed by June 2013.  Another through truss bridge, the Red Bridge, which was recently converted into a bike trail, will be raised four feet with new approaches being added. The fate of the other five bridges in the business district is unknown at the moment.

Red Bridge in Des Moines: Unlike the CGW Bridge, this bridge will be raised four feet to allow for more flow of water. Photo taken in August 2011


Mulberry Creek Bridge in Kansas considered historic and should be saved; county engineer and commissioners cowing over the results

The Mulberry Creek Bridge in Ford County, Kansas features two of the original six spans of pin-connected Pratt through trusses that had originally spanned the Arkansas River in Dodge City from the time of its original construction in 1906 until its relocation in 1959. It had served a private road until a broken pin was discovered in May 2012, closing the bridge indefinitely. A month later, the county voted unanimously to tear the bridge down and replace it with a culvert. Two months later, the bridge came to the Chronicles’ attention and that of Workin Bridges and the Kansas State Historical Society. Three days ago, the Kansas Historical Society considered the bridge historic and recommended that the bridge be repaired and reopened to traffic, based on historical findings and the thorough investigation by Julie Bowers and crew at Workin Bridges. A clear victory for a potential owner, Wayne Keller, who lives next to the bridge and uses it regularly. Yet the county commissioners are not backing down on their plan as they have ordered a full inspection of the bridge to determine what other issues the structure has that could justify its demise. Many have considered them to be spoiled sports, not willing to give the bridge to Keller to own. A tiny repair before changing ownership can save thousands of tax payer dollars. Yet the ability to do the math seems to be nonexistent. More information to follow.

The bridge is up for nomination for the Ammann Award for best photo. More will come soon. The Chronicles has an article on the bridge, which can be found here.

Cascade Bridge’s Future in Limbo

Located in Burlington, Iowa and built in 1896 to commemorate the state’s 50th anniversary of its statehood, the Cascade Bridge is the only bridge in Iowa that features the Baltimore deck truss span with no steel approaches- that honor goes to the Kate Shelley Bridge in Boone County. It was closed in 2008 due to structural concerns, but despite being listed on the National Register, an engineering report by a consulting firm in September revealed that the bridge is not safe and should be torn down. Yet the bidding process still continues as some parties are begging to differ, given the fact that the firm only visited the bridge once during its inspection and used photos provided by the city. The bridge’s fate now lies in the hands of the SHPO in Ames and up until now, no decision on its future has been made. A blessing or a curse?

Oblique view of the Cascade Bridge in Burlington. Photo taken by Quinn Phelan in 2009

Despite the ugly sides of the historic bridge preservation story, we do have some bright sides for a couple of bridges that are worth noting:

Gilliecie Bridge in Winneshiek County. Photo taken in October 2005









Gilliece Bridge on the move?

Located over the Upper Iowa River on Cattle Creek Road in Winneshiek County, Iowa, the Gilliece Bridge (which also goes by the names of Murtha and Daley) is one of only two bowstring through arches left in the county, and one of only three left that was constructed by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, if one counts the queenpost portion of the Upper Bluffton Bridge that was spared demolition earlier this year. This is despite the fact that Wrought Iron Bridge constructed over two dozen bridges in the county between 1870 and 1890. The 1874 bridge sustained damage to its overhead bracing over the years, yet despite the plans to replace the bridge next year, it seems that this bridge is destined for a golf course in Mitchell County. If all repairs are made and the agreement is made, it will be placed over water at Sunny Brae in the next year or so, to be made available for golfers and visitors alike. More information will follow. The Chronicles is working on a piece on Winneshiek County’s bridges and will have it available very soon.

Waterford Iron Bridge gets a check-up; restoration on the horizon

A contract was let to Workin Bridges to look at options for restoring the bridge. Built in 1909 by the Hennepin Bridge Company in Minneapolis, this 140 foot long Camelback through truss bridge is scheduled to be restored and incorporated into a bike trail network along the Canon River, with work expected to start next year. The question that is on the minds of many involved is how to restore it. New foundations, removal of pack rust, fixing truss beams and repainting are needed, but the total cost is unclear. The investigation has started and more will be revealed once the check-up is finished. The fortunate part is the Waterford Bridge is coming off two victories in the funding part, winning the American Express Prize and the Bronze Medal (and $95,000) in the Partner’s for Preservation Award last year, in connection with additional support from public and private sectors, something that is rare in the world of historic bridge preservation. But once the restoration is completed, it will be worth more in its own value than money can ever offer.

More information on the bridge can be found here. Please note, the photos taken by the author can be found here. The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest.

And lastly, we have some news out on a pair of mystery bridges that are worth noting:

Pearson and US 101 Bridges related?

As mentioned earlier this year in many bridge articles, Harrison County, Iowa is one of a few counties in the state that imported many bridges from outside the state, including some high quality aesthetic bridges, such as the (now extant) Orr Bridge, the US 101 Bridges from California, and the Pearson Bridge, all of which can be seen here:

Orr Bridge

US 101 Bridges

Pearson Bridge

Some information about two of the mystery bridges came to light thanks to information from one of the locals. The Pearson Bridge, which spanned Soldier River on 170th Trail near Loess Hills, was originally constructed at the site of the East Kelley Lane Bridge near Mondamin, according to Craig Guttau. The Pearson Bridge was relocated to the present site in the 1950s, when one of the spans of the US 101 Bridge replaced it for reasons of structural soundness, especially when heavier farm equipment needed to cross the bridge. Even more interesting is the fact that a weight limit was imposed on the East Kelley Lane Bridge right from the beginning due to a missing beam from the US 101 span, which was replaced with a makeshift beam that was not as durable as the original one.  The East Kelley Lane Bridge is set to be replaced next year, unless the fiscal cliff issue in Washington delays the project indefinitely. The Pearson Bridge has long since been removed after a heavy vehicle tried crossing the bridge, and fell through the deck. While it has been a few years since the mishap, the county and state made haste in condemning the structure and tearing it down, while at the same time, posted even stricter sanctions on the rest of the bridges to ensure that the mishap never repeats itself. Hence the phrase “Obey the weight limit or this bridge will be closed!”

This leads to the request for more information on the origin of the Pearson Bridge- whether it was built in Harrison County or imported from outside even earlier than 1950. The other question is when and how did the accident on the bridge happened, which led to the bridge’s unfortunate downfall…..

The Harrison County bridges are being considered for the Ammann Awards in the category of Mystery Bridge, although it is unknown whether they will be nominated individually or as a group of bridges.

Horn’s Ferry Bridge revealed (at least partially):

In the last few months, some readers and locals have been contributing information and photos pertaining to the Horn’s Ferry Bridge in Marion County, Iowa and its unfortunate collapse 20 years ago. Here are some points to consider: The bridge was built twice: First time in 1881 and when erosion was undermining the east end of the bridge, two additional spans were built in 1929. Both by local contractors based in Des Moines. The original 1881 spans were built on stone piers supported by walnut pilings. According to many residents, the walnut pilings rotted away, causing the stone piers to crack and spall, contributing to the bridge’s closing in 1982 and its eventual collapse in 1991. The Camelback main span resembles a span that was located upstream, west of Red Rock Dam. Yet that bridge was removed when the Red Rock Dam was built in the 1960s. Here is a pic that Daryl Van Zee sent to the Chronicles a few months ago, taken by an unknown photographer and depicting the bridge as it was before its collapse.

Horn’s Ferry Bridge taken in the 1980s by an unknown photographer. Submitted by Daryl Van Zee.


Author’s notes:

1. Voting will begin for the Ammann Awards beginning 3 December. A number of entries have come in within the last few days. If you still want to submit, you have until 3 December to do so.


2. There will be some catching up with regards to the Book of the Month in December, as three books will be profiled, two for the months of October and November and one for December. Stay tuned.



Mulberry Creek Bridge near Ford, Kansas

Mulberry Creek Bridge in Ford County, KS. Photo courtesy of Wayne Keller. Used with permission.


It is not rare that when a person is on vacation, far far away where he is not reachable that he comes home to an urgent message on the answering machine or in your e-mail inbox begging for help. While I was away at the peninsula of Holnis, located northeast of Flensburg northern Schleswig-Holstein, a gentleman provided an SOS to anyone who could help him save a unique bridge from becoming a pile of scrap metal and replaced with an ugly concrete culvert that is a 20th of the length of the original bridge itself. As I had posted about the call for mystery bridges to be solved prior to my departure in the second week of August, it was not surprising that he asked me for his help.
Wayne Keller needs your help. He is currently compiling some information and ways to save the Mulberry Creek Bridge. Located southwest of Ford in Ford County, Kansas (which is  southeast of Dodge City), the bridge features two 85 foot pinned connecting Pratt through truss spans with Howe Lattice portal bracings (9-rhombus with curved heel bracings).

The bridge was built in 1906 by the Kansas City Bridge Company at its original location, Second Avenue in Dodge City. It featured six 85 foot spans over the Arkansas River. In 1935, the bridge was replaced by a concrete span, but the truss spans were relocated to Coronado Road, where it was in service until 1958 when it was replaced by a concrete bridge on a new alignment. Two of the spans were salvaged and relocated to Valley Road, where it has been in place since 1959. The bridge has been susceptible to flooding as it is located near a watershed, which is over 15o square miles. The bridge now serves a general maintenance road and is rarely used. But it becomes a dirt road after passing the Keller Ranch.  Yet if the county commissioners have it their way, the bridge will be history before year’s end. The last inspection in May of this year revealed a broken pin in one of the connections between the diagonal and vertical beams and the bridge was subsequentially closed to all traffic. On 4 June, 2012, the commissioners voted unanimously to tear the bridge down and replace it with a concrete culvert that is seven feet long- an intelligent choice given the fact that the creek is wider than the culvert, and culverts are susceptible to erosion caused by high water, as well as flooding upstream. There was an attempt to sell the bridge to Mr. Keller three years earlier but despite his agreement to the proposal, the deal never bore fruit for unknown reasons.

Mr Keller is looking for some information on the bridge to make it eligible for the National Register but also for ways to keep the bridge in service- and on his property, even if it means fixing the structure to keep it open for private use only. Judging by the information found so far, the bridge has potential to be considered historically significant and repairs on the bridge will prolong its life by up to 50 years, while at the same time, is 70% cheaper than replacing it with a culvert and allow the road to be dammed up, causing flooding upstream and potentially lawsuits by farmers and ranchers affected. More information in the form of oral sources and other articles to help justify the case for saving the bridge is also welcomed.
If you have any information that will be helpful to Mr. Keller in his quest to save the bridge, please contact him at the following e-mail address:

If you would like to address the logic and importance in saving the bridge and cutting down on the cost, please contact the Ford County commissioners using the following information:

Jerry King:  620-385-2975

Christopher Boys 620-225-0800

Terry Williams: 620-225-1104

Update from Wayne Keller:

The plan of the county engineer is to removed the bridge an sell as scrap
metal and replace with a metal seven foot culvert. The bridge is 170 long
and is about 15 feet above the channel. The proposed culvert will be buried
one foot below the channel and the top of the road will be about 12 feet
below the deck of the current bridge. So the cross sectional area of the
opening for water flow will go from basically a triangle 170 along the top
and 15 of depth or about 1,275 square feet to the opening the culvert 38.5
square feet less maybe a square foot that is buried below the channel.

The bridge is on a general maintenance township road and provides me all
weather access to my residence(our family residence since 1905) and my ranch
and cow calf herd. It is also the mail route. From my driveway going east,
the roads become minimum maintenance township roads and are very nasty due
to eroded roadbeds that now serve as ditches when it is wet. The bridge is
my one and only connection to the outside world in wet weather. During wet
weather access to the other lands, which are only farmlands with no
residences, that are east of my driveway are not accessible except by ATV or
high clearance 4WD vehicles. Therefore, during wet weather, I, my hired hand
and the mail man have to use the bridge, along with emergency services if
needed at my place, and no other landowner can use the bridge for to access
their property because of the minimum maintenance road system past my

Update from BHC (12/20/2021):

The bridge has been closed to all traffic since 2016. The barriers are up, but one can walk across it according to information from some fellow bridgehunters. Nevertheless, attempts are needed to preserve the bridge for future use. In case you have some ideas, use the contact information in the text above and/or provide some ideas in the website.


The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will keep you informed on the developments with this mystery bridge and would like to thank you for your support.