Looks can be deceiving in this week’s Pic of the Week. This photo was taken in August 2011 and showed a car that wanted to cross this historic through truss bridge, only to be stopped by a Road Closed sign and a bunch of weeds. A tunnel view shot with some colorful reactions from the driver, which starts with …………
You finish the sentence. 😉
About the bridge itself, the Pratt through truss structure spanned the East Branch of the Des Moines River just off US Hwy. 169 north of the Humboldt-Kossuth County line. It was built in 1895 by the King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio and was one of only a handful of bridges left in the state of Iowa that was built directly by Zenas King. His son George E. King established his bridge building company in Des Moines and was responsible for dozens more, many of them are still standing today. Closed in 2010, the structure was removed during the Winter 2016/17. More information and photos of the bridge can be found here.
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.
This week’s Pic of the Week takes us to Iowa and to this bridge. The Thunder Bridge is one of two Pennsylvania through truss bridges that span the Little Sioux River in Spencer, Iowa. The bridge is the shorter of the two and also the younger, having a length of 164 feet and been built in 1905. Yet the two were built by the same company, the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works Company. They also have other commonality: the sound of rattling wooden planks when crossing it. In the car or even taken from an oblique angle like in this picture taken in 2011, one will hear it clearly. A video taken by another avid bridge fan and fisherman below will show you the sound taken from the car.
Currently the bridge is still open and if you want to get some photos, you can park at the nearby boat access next to the bridge. It’s highly unlikely that the bridge will close to traffic because only a few cars cross it daily. Furthermore, the street which the bridge carries makes a loop and ends a quarter mile to the west at the same highway, which makes truck deliveries easier. If anything, since Clay County has a few very unique but important artefacts, that Thunder will at the very most receive new wooden flooring in addition to the repairs of beams and the like, making it one of the classic examples of in-kind restoration, and one where the wheels will keep on rattling, just like in the pic with the US-Postal Service truck. A real treat if you visit Iowa and happen to pass by this place.
To see more of Iowa’s historic bridges, please visit the facebook website and like to follow. The link is available 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. 🙂
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.
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