7 votes

Beaver Creek Bridge


Photo taken by J.R. Manning

BH Photo #109494


This concrete fixed arch spans Beaver Creek in the northwestern corner of Boone County. Consisting of one 50-foot span, the structure features slotted guardrails with paneled concrete bulkheads and is supported by a concrete substructure. Dating from 1919, the bridge was erected by the Des Moines-based N.E. Marsh & Son Construction Company, who used a design by James Marsh, engineer and patent holder for the rainbow arch configuration. The Beaver Creek Bridge has functioned in place some six miles northwest of Ogden, in Amaqua Township, since its completion in 1919. This medium-scale arch marks a noteworthy innovation in bridge design, an achievement engineered and patented by James Marsh in 1912. Marsh's design represented the hybridization of continuous concrete and segmental steel-arch designs, a radical departure from standard engineering practice. Concrete can withstand a nominal amount of tension. For this reason, most previous concrete arches--both reinforced and mass arches in filled and open spandrel configurations--were built with the arch below the deck, where the downward force of the deck could be carried in compression by the arch ribs and spandrel wall or columns. Marsh's suspended arch reversed this. His arches, of course, act in compression; but the hangers and floor beams carry the deck in tension. Furthermore, the novel treatment of the deck over sliding steel plates on the floor beams and the use of pin-connected, articulated steel hangers for the end panel points were devices more suited to steel construction than concrete. To make the concrete thus act against its nature, Marsh inserted large amounts of structural steel. His bridges may look like concrete spans, but the arch ribs and hangers carry such heavy and complicated reinforcing that they are, in reality, steel structures encased in concrete. Marsh designed his bridges with either tied (with the arches attached to the abutments at the floor beam level) or fixed (arches extending below the floor beams to the abutments) configurations. Aside from this, all of his rainbow arches were similar, varying only in span length, arch rise and number of hangers. Marsh's invention did not foretell a new direction in reinforced concrete design. The industry would later turn to other, simpler slab and beam configurations as it developed more sophisticated reinforcing techniques in the 1930s and 1940s. The rainbow arch did, however, denote one of the more interesting early experiments in concrete engineering and represented the proliferation of concrete for road and bridge construction. It is not known how many Marsh arches were built in Iowa in the 1910s and 1920s: judging from county records perhaps not more than one hundred. The large amount of reinforcing steel sheathed within a relatively thin skin of concrete has made them particularly vulnerable to rusting and spalling. As a result, only a few are known to remain. The Beaver Creek Bridge is distinguished as a well-preserved example of an indigenous structural type [adapted from Fraser 1992].


Arch bridge over Beaver Creek on 210th Avenue
Boone County, Iowa
Open to traffic
Built 1916; rehabilitated 1999
- Marsh Engineering Co. of Des Moines, Iowa
Marsh Arch
Length of largest span: 49.9 ft.
Total length: 52.2 ft.
Deck width: 18.0 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places
Approximate latitude, longitude
+42.04914, -94.14207   (decimal degrees)
42°02'57" N, 94°08'31" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/405488/4655862 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Grand Junction
Land survey
T. 84 N., R. 28 W., Sec. 32
Average daily traffic (as of 2011)
Inventory numbers
IA 78080 (Iowa bridge number)
NRHP 98000762 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 12889 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of April 2018)
Overall condition: Fair
Superstructure condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Good (7 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 73.9 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com


Arch (12,863)
Boone County, Iowa (112)
Built 1916 (748)
Built during 1910s (10,235)
Iowa (6,865)
Lincoln Highway (145)
Marsh Engineering Co. (44)
Marsh arch (72)
NR-listed (3,027)
Open (41,421)
Owned by county (21,997)
Rainbow arch (262)
Span length 25-50 feet (16,481)
Total length 50-75 feet (9,884)

Update Log 

  • April 12, 2020: New photo from Andrew Motley
  • September 23, 2014: New photos from Kevin Skow
  • January 23, 2012: Photo imported by Luke Harden
  • August 19, 2008: Updated by J.R. Manning: Updated NRHP Listing
  • March 30, 2008: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added Bridge to "Lincoln Highway" Category


  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • Historic Bridges of Iowa - History of Beaver Creek Marsh Arch Bridge
  • Luke
  • Kevin Skow - weatherbum [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • Andrew Motley


Beaver Creek Bridge
Posted July 16, 2007, by Lugnuts (thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

This Marsh Engineering designed arch bridge is one of the famous arch bridges designed by Marsh along the Lincoln Highway and is one of two extant. (The most famous is the Raccoon River bridge in Greene County, see #162260.) The original 1912 alignment of the Lincoln Highway passed through Beaver but moved to this road when this bridge was built.

The stunning design of this bridge also provides its durability.

One of five identical bridges built in this area, this is the last survivor. It has been threatened in the past because of the narrow deck - the exact feature that caused the demise of the other four - and the high arch railings that block large farm equipment from using it.

The bridge is located on 210th Street, just off B Avenue, a few miles north of Beaver.

If you look closely, you can see that this is also a popular nesting place for barn swallows.

You can see photos of the restoration of this bridge on the website of the Iowa Chapter of The Lincoln Highway Association. http://www.lincolnhighwayassoc.org/iowa/iowa/booneCo/beaver....

Webmaster's note: The photos that were here have been incorporated into the main site.