HB in Polk County, Arkansas For Sale: Any Takers?

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MENA, ARKANSAS- Polk County, Arkansas has a historic bridge for sale. Built in 1915, the structure has a riveted steel Pratt pony truss design, with timber stringers and a  wooden deck. The parameters of the bridge is 72 feet long and 11.67 feet wide between the trusses. It has been closed for several years, but the structure can be found on Polk County Road 50 near Old Sale Barn in Potter.  Takers of the bridge must take it as is, and it must be removed and transported by licensed contractor with commercial general liability insurance. This is part of the plan to remove the truss bridge and replace it with a new structure. How the truss bridge is repurposed is dependent on the new owner.

Sealed bids will be accepted prior to the auction at 9AM on November 25, 2019 in the basement of the Polk County Courthouse. The courthouse is located at 507 Church AVE, Mena, AR 71953. Bids should be delivered in a sealed envelope and clearly marked “Polk County Road 50 bridge”. The bidder with the acceptable amount will retain responsibilities for the truss bridge, including relocation, restoration and repurposing. Funding may be available to offset the costs.  Inquiries should be made to Polk County Judge, Brandon Ellison at 479-394-8133.


Rig Downs Historic Highway Bridge in Arkansas

Photo taken by Wayne Kizziar in 2011

Semi-truck with skidder brings down 1920s through truss bridge that used to serve three major highways, no one injured.

POTTER, ARKANSAS- Careless and ignorance seems to be the major theme involving historic bridges in the United States and elsewhere, as drivers of large heavy trucks have been illusive in ignoring the restrictions involving crossing a light weight bridge and have taken the chance, even if it meant paying the price for their ignorance.

After the Christmas Day disaster in Paoli, another bridge of similar type has fallen victim to an overwiszed and overweight truck in near Potter in western Arkansas. Police officials are investigating the reasons why the driver of a semi truck with a trailer loaded with a skidder, ignored the weight limit of the Two Mile Creek Bridge and tried crossing the bridge only to drop the 1920 structure into the water. The incident happened on Friday. According to officials, the Pratt through truss bridge with A-frame portal bracings, Howe lattice strut bracings and riveted connections, had a weight limit of 6 tons, while the truck’s weight limit was four times the weight limit. The bridge used to carry three different state highways before the county took ownership. The crossing carried US Highways 71 and 59 as well as State Highway 375 before they were relocated on a new (and straighter) alignment. Prior to its collapse, it carried county highway 37.  Its truss design, a riveted Pratt through truss was constructed using standardized truss designs to accomodate the load. Unfortunately, it is unknown who the bridge builder of the 100-foot long crossing was.

It was just unfortunate that the bridge could not accomodate a truckload that was four times its weight limit, as it was seen in the picture below. Considered a total loss, the crossing was the last of the through truss bridges in Polk County. Compounding it with the most recent flooding, the bridge is the second one in a month that became victim. A two-span pony truss bridge was severely damaged by flooding on Christmas Day and its fate is uncertain. As for the driver, charges are pending for wreckless driving and disobeying the weight limit sign. More information will follow.

Side view of the bridge collapse with the rig on there. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Lance
Side view of the bridge collapse with the rig on there. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Lance

REMINDER: Today is the last day to enter your photos, bridges, etc. for the 2015 Ammann Awards. Entries will be taken until 12:00am Central Standard Time. The Voting process will start the following day, which will be posted in the Chrinicles. Get your entries in before it’s too late!!!

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 51: The Bridges of Saylorville Lake in Iowa

The Des Moines River at the Woodward Viaduct in Boone County. This is the starting point of Saylorville Lake, which extends to north of Des Moines. Photo taken in August 2013

This Mystery Bridge article is in connection with a book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River. For more information about the book and how you can help, please click here for details.

The next mystery bridge features not only one, but SIX bridges, all within the vicinity of a lake. Saylorville Lake is the second of two man-made lakes along the Des Moines River in Iowa. The other is Red Rock Lake, located between Knoxville and Pella in Marion County (article on that can be found here). Yet Saylorville is the larger of the two, covering an area of 5,950 acres and 9 miles wide. The length of the lake is 17 miles long, starting at Woodward in Boone County and ending north of Des Moines. In the event of flooding, the lake is three times the length, extending as far north as Boone. The size of the lake is over 17,000 acres at flood stage, which was reached twice- in 1993 and 2008. The lake was authorized by the US Army Corps. of Engineers in 1958 as part of the project to control the flooding along the Des Moines River. It took 19 years until the lake was fully operational in September 1977.  Yet like the Red Rock Lake project, the lake came at the cost of many homes and even bridges.

Before Saylorville, six bridges once existed over the Des Moines River within the 17 miles that was later inundated. Five of them consisted of multiple spans of steel truss bridges built between 1890 and 1910. The sixth one consisted of a steel and concrete beam bridge built in 1955 carrying a major highway. All of them were removed as part of the project between 1969 and 1975. Yet some information on the bridge’s type and dimensions were recorded prior to their removal  for load tests were conducted to determine how much weight a bridge could tolerate under heavy loads before they collapse. Only a few pictures were taken prior to the project, yet information is sketchy, for the pictures did not describe the bridges well enough to determine their aesthetic appearance. Despite one of the bridges carrying a plaque, there was no information on the builder. All but two spans have a construction date which needs to be examined to determine their accuracies. In any case, the bridges have historic potential for each one has a history that is unique to the area it served before the lake was created.

While the bridges no longer exist as they are deep under water in a sea that is only 836 feet above sea level (that is the depth of Saylorville Lake when there is no flooding), it is important to know more about their histories so that they are remembered by the locals, historians, pontists and those interested in the history of the region now covered with beaches, marinas and houses. The bridges in question are the following:

Hubby Bridge

Location: Des Moines River at Opal Lane in Boone County

Bridge type: Pennsylvania through truss with A-frame portal bracings and pinned connections (four spans)

Built: 1909

Removed: 1975

Length: 660 feet (160 feet per span)


Chestnut Ford Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River at 145th Lane in Dallas County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss (3 spans total) with Howe Lattice portal bracings (2 spans) and A-frame portal bracing (1 span). Two of the three spans were pinned connected whereas the third span was riveted.

Built: ca. 1900; one of the spans was replaced later.

Removed: 1975?

Length: 480 feet (180 feet per span)


Hanley Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River near Jester Park in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss (one span); two additional spans existed but type is difficult to recognize.

Built: ca. 1900; two newer spans replaced the original spans damaged in 1953

Removed: 1975

Length: 360 feet total (largest span: 150 feet)


Corydon Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River south of Polk City in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss with X-frame portal bracings and pinned connections (two spans)

Built: 1889

Removed: 1975 but not before it collapsed under the weight of US Army tanks in 1972

Length: 312 feet total (156 feet per span)


Snyder Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River at 128th Street in Polk County

Bridge type: Pratt through truss with pinned connections. Portal bracing unknown (three spans total)

Built: 1898

Removed: ca. 1975

Length: 444 feet total (148 feet per span)


Hwy. 98 Bridge:

Location: Des Moines River between Woodward and Madrid in Boone County

Bridge type: Steel plate girder

Built: 1955

Replaced: 1973 with higher span

Length: 360 feet

The highway was later changed to Hwy. 210


What is needed from these bridges are the following:

1. More photos to better describe the structure

2. Information on the construction of the bridge, including the bridge builder and the year the bridge was built

3. Information and photos of the removal of the bridge

4. Stories and memories of the bridge during their existence prior to the creation of Saylorville Lake

If you have any useful information about these bridges, please contact Jason D. Smith at the Chronicles at flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. The information will be useful for the book project but the Chronicles will keep you posted when information comes in on these bridges. The creation of the lakes along the Des Moines River came at the expense of bridges, villages and some livelihoods. Now it’s a question of piecing together the history of the areas affected to find out what the areas looked like, with the goal of the younger generation remembering them for years to come. This includes the bridges that were erased from the map and in some, memory. And while they are physically gone, history surely will not.

Thanks to Luke Harden for digging up some facts about the bridges as they were documented in a report published prior to the bridges’ removal. Please click on the names of the bridges as they serve as links to the bridges found on bridgehunter- also thanks to his contribution so far.



Jackson Street Bridge Update 18 November, 2013

Side view of the Jackson Street Bridge.

Proposal to Demo the bridge to be brought up at Meeting 26 November; Voting to Commence Christmas Eve

Things are working much faster than anticipated with regards to the Green Bridge in Des Moines. While talks are being scheduled with regards to finding alternatives to demolishing the Jackson Street (Green) and neighboring Waterworks Park Bridges, the Des Moines City Council and the Park Board have officially planned a pair of important meetings, according to many sources, with regards to the future of the Green Bridge. The proposal to demolish the bridge will be presented to the City’s Park Board on November 26th at 5:00pm at the City Council’s Chamber, with voting to commence on Christmas Eve. Already, according to unknown sources, the City’s manager had proposed to demolish the Green and Meredith Trail Bridges last week to the Park Board only to be turned down by a 7-1 vote.  Despite the doom and gloom being presented by many claiming that the Green Bridge is in imminent danger of collapsing, it appears that the problems that led to its closure in March 2013 are fixable which is a good sign. The question is who will do it and how…

For those wanting to express their support for saving the Green Bridge, click here to contact the City’s council members and here to contact the Park Board. You can also like and follow the developments via facebook by clicking here. (800 Likes and counting, which is a very good sign that the interest in saving the bridge is present). Please ensure that you do this before the 26th meeting as well as prior to voting on Christmas Eve. The Chronicles will continue to follow the developments as they are unveiled, but it appears that the race to see who can get to the bridge first, between the bulldozer and the protesters, is off and running, and many people are looking on with great interest. And one will not have to ask who is cheering the loudest at the moment (and will continue to do so to the very end).  🙂

Another Des Moines Historic Bridge slated for the dumpster?

Waterworks Park Bridge. Photo taken by John Marvig in August 2013

Waterworks Park Bridge targeted for replacement with a larger bridge. Plan not yet finalized.

As the fight has started to save the Green Bridge at 5th Avenue over the Raccoon River, the days of another historic bridge located upstream may be numbered. If rumors hold true, the Waterworks Park Bridge, located at the park bearing its name, is being scheduled for demolition and replacement with a wider and bigger bridge. As mentioned in the third part of the series on Des Moines’ bridges, the two-span Pratt pony truss was built in 1922 but was converted to a bike trail crossing in 1999 and has since been serving as one of the key points in the park as well as along the Grey Lake bike trail which runs along the Raccoon River in the southern part of Des Moines. It is unknown whether the truss spans used to serve as a vehicular bridge or if they were relocated from outside. But judging by the photos recently submitted by John Marvig (and can be viewed by clicking here), the bridge’s main spans as well as the approach spans appear to be in great condition. Should there be any concern regarding the bridge, then most likely with the steel piers for they were repaired and reinforced with additional steel to ensure that the structure stays in place inspite of the ice jams and flooding. Yet, most of these problems can be solved by replacing the piers with those that are sturdier, mainly a combination of concrete and steel.

If a bigger bridge is to take place of this truss bridge, then the City will be mistaken if they think that the structure requires minimal maintenance. There is no such thing as a zero-maintenance bridge unless a person wants to replace it every ten years at the expense of tax-payers’ dollars because of structural concerns that were neglected . For any bridge, maintenance is expected to assure the bridge’s long-lasting lifespan, and given the condition of the Waterworks Park Bridge, all it takes is some cosmetic and structural work and the truss bridge will last another 50-60 years. It is highly doubtful that a modern structure, as proposed by the City, can do that, let alone make the park look nicer than it is right now.

While work on saving the Green Bridge is already in full gear, it will not be long until another movement to save this bridge gets going. So stay tuned for the developments.


Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge now on facebook

Side view of the Jackson Street Bridge.

The struggle to save an important landmark of the City of Des Moines has begun! As recently as this past Tuesday, the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, in conjunction with Lost Des Moines has launched a facebook site devoted to preserving the Fifth Street Bridge, spanning the Raccoon River connecting Des Moines’ city center with the southern suburbs (more info on the bridge’s history can be found here). The Save the Jackson Street- Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge facebook page is a platform where people can contribute photos, information and stories on this structure (nicknamed Green Bridge), as well as address pleas to the City of Des Moines, which owns the bridge as part of the bike trail system, to reconsider the recent decision to close the structure permanently and remove it. Right now, we’re collecting the first 1,000 Likes, with the bar being raised after reaching the goal. Once the mark is reached, there will be many measures to bring all parties together and find ways to fix and reopen this important link. A petition drive and informational meetings are two of many ideas that are being considered. Like and follow this page (by clicking here) as updates will be presented as they come.

While most information and updates will be found through the facebook page, the Chronicles will continue to provide stories on historic bridge preservation examples, including looking at ways historic bridges can be restored, being a reference for this bridge as well as others that are in danger of being demolished and replaced. This in addition to the bridge tours and the like.  Like and follow on the Chronicles’ facebook and twitter pages and stay tuned for more stories to come.

What to do with a Historic Bridge: Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge in Des Moines






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Fifth Avenue/ Jackson Street Pedestrian Bridge in Des Moines. Photo taken in August 2013

The Fifth Street Pedestrian Bridge, also known as the Green Bridge, is one of many bridges of its kind that is part of Des Moines’ heritage because of its contribution to the city’s history and infrastructure. Built in 1898 by a local bridge builder, J.H. Killmar, with help from the George E. King Bridge Company, using steel from the Jones and Laughlin Steel Company of Pittsburgh, the Green Bridge features three Pratt through truss spans that are pinned connected and have Howe Lattice portal bracings that resemble the characteristics of the through truss spans built by King at that time. Yet the uniqueness of the bridge lies not within its aesthetic design and its integral part of the City’s network along the Des Moines and Raccoon Rivers, but within its history.

Already at the start of the bidding for a new crossing, there was a bidding war regarding where the structure should be built between the “East Siders” who wanted a crossing over the Des Moines River at Sixth Street to provide a key connection between the City and the agricultural areas, and the “West Siders” who wanted a crossing at Fifth Street over the Raccoon River to provide access to the business district from the south end. This was in connection with the $30,000 in unappropriated funds the city council had put up for grabs. The “West Siders”, led by the Clifton Land Company, won the competition and the bidding was let out to the bridge company who would put a crossing over the Raccoon River, while land owners foot the bill for the abutments and flood control. The contract was given to J.H. Killmar in July 1896, but was not validated due to a lawsuit brought forth by the competing bridge contractors, who practiced the bidding combine- a practice where competing bridge companies “…would appoint several high bidders and one low bidder for each project. In this fashion, they could predict who would win the project, the low-bidder, and each contractor would take turns submitting the lowest bid for various projects. The only snag in this plan is that all contractors bidding on a project must be members of the combine for the scheme to work successfully.”(Fraser, 1993)  According to the bridge survey conducted in 1993, such bidding practice was considered immoral and illegal, and Killmar managed to be the outsider who received a generous contract allowing him to build his masterpiece. While the Lower Court ruled in favor of the bridge combine, Killmar and the City appealed to the State Supreme Court, which overturned the ruling on October 27th, 1897. Right after the ruling, Killmar commenced with his work, and despite bad weather and delays in the shipment of steel and other materials, the bridge was completed on June 22nd, 1898, at the cost of $19,000.

The bridge served traffic for 95 years until structural issues, caused by wear and tear, combined with damages from the Great Flood of 1993 forced its closure. Yet because of its significance to the city’s history, plus it represented one of the finest examples of bridges built by Killmar and King, the bridge received its listing on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. At the same time, the structure was rehabilitated and converted to bike and pedestrian trail use and became an integral part of the City’s bike trail system. It is one of eight bridges in the city that one can see lit up at night and still provides access to the southern suburbs from the city center.

With all the conflicts that had occurred when constructing the bridge, there is one on the horizon involving its possible demolition and removal. Structural deficiencies in the bridge led the City to close the bridge in March 2013, and the bridge has been closed since then. Word has gone around the City that the closure will be indefinite with plans to remove the entire structure being decided upon by the city council.  A lot is at stake with this bridge, yet the reasons for the demolition seem lame. The Army Corp. of Engineers claim that there are too many bridges along the Raccoon River making the southern part of the city vulnerable, yet there are just as many bridges along the Des Moines River going through downtown as the ones along the Raccoon. Even more notable are the bridge types, for the Fifth Street Bridge is the only bridge of its kind remaining along the Raccoon River, and all it would take is to raise the structure four feet to alleviate the floodwaters, which occurs once in 100 years. It would be mammoth of an effort to do the same thing with the concrete arch bridges located next to the bridge.  Then there is the claim of structural issues, which included problems with the bridge decking and the questionable repairs made on the bridge in 1998. Yet they were not specified in detail for people to understand.  This should lead to questions being raised as to: 1. What exactly are the structural issues noted on the bridge, 2. Could they be fixed at an affordable price (99.9% of the time, the answer to that question is “yes.”), and finally, 3. Why were these structural issues not addressed when the bridge was rehabilitated and converted into a pedestrian/bike crossing 15 years ago?  If the claim that the City does not want to maintain the bridge anymore is true (which was mentioned by many discussing about the situation), then the council members are a mile away from reality, for the City is obliged to maintain all of its bridges, including the pedestrian ones, to ensure that they are safe and they last a long time.


It is unknown what the future holds for the bridge, but the majority of the population favors fixing and reopening the bridge. Even more so, they demand an explanation as to why they are unwilling to put more money into a bridge like this one, which appears to be in pristine condition with perhaps some minor repairs and new paint needed, which will cost half the amount the City claimed it will cost ($1.75 million in comparison to $750,000 needed to demolish the bridge).  Furthermore, as the bridge is a National Landmark, the City will eventually be locking horns with the State and Federal Governments, which will force them to reconsider their stance. It was already done with the Cedar Avenue Bridge in Bloomington, Minnesota, 150 miles north of the state capital, back in August, even though problems the bridge has is similar to what is on the Green Bridge. Work will commence on restoring the five-span truss bridge next year, with a target plan of reopening it in 2015. With successes involving the Cascade and Wagon Wheel Bridges, the State will not hesitate to put a stop to the plans, which will be a blessing to those who favor keeping the Green Bridge in tact.


In the end, the future of the bridge will lie in the hands of the people of the City. While the CGW Railroad Bridge was demolished due to flood damage and arson which made even restoring the structure useless, the City will not accept losing another historic bridge because of something that can be fixed. With fewer truss bridges left in the state, people will stand for the Green Bridge and at least be allowed to vote on it through a referendum. Then they can decide whether they want the bridge restored or replaced.


The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles will be following the situation closely and keep you informed on the bridge’s future. In the meantime, have a look at the photos of the bridge by clicking here and you are free to decide how to repair the unique structure with a history that people want to keep.