4 votes

Okoboji Bridge


Where is the bridge?

Photo taken by Jason Smith in August 2011


BH Photo #207675

History of the Okoboji Bridge 

Iowa DOT Historic Bridge Website

The first county roads in Dickinson County included a route extending westward from Spirit Lake and running east between East Okoboji and Spirit Lakes, then south and west to Gar Outlet. Establishing the latter two routes involved bridging the county's two most strategic crossings: the straits between East and West Okoboji Lakes and between East Okoboji and Spirit Lakes. Prior to construction of bridges, travelers were faced either with fording the crossings or with journeying several miles around the lakes. In December 1859 Dickinson County hired local contractors to build the county's first bridges at these points. The configuration of the lakes, and the requirements of steam boat traffic between them, led to a series of failed attempts to bridge the narrows. After 50 years of false starts and short-lived wooden swing bridges, the board of supervisors opted for a more permanent solution on June 15, 1909, when they contracted with the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works of Clinton, Iowa, to fabricate and erect a new steel bridge. Completed that year for $1,550, the new swing span consisted of an 80-foot, rigid-connected pivot truss with a six-foot-wide sidewalk, resting on concrete and masonry abutments. The bridge and the adjacent county road were later incorporated into a U.S. highway and placed under the aegis of the Iowa State Highway Commission (ISHC). Both would carry heavy traffic over the next twenty years. The 1909 truss was replaced with a fixed-span concrete girder structure in 1929. Sometime after that, Dickinson County moved the 1909 truss to this rural crossing in Okoboji Township, erecting it on a timber pile bent substructure. Here it has functioned in place as a fixed-span truss. Timber piles have been inserted under the truss's panel points, and the bridge has recently been closed to traffic, but the truss itself remains unaltered. The Okoboji Bridge is historically significant for its pivotal role in the development of Dickinson County. One of the county's earliest crossings, it clearly encouraged settlement and contributed to the region's socioeconomic development. From its first rudimentary timber span in 1860, through timber and steel lift and wing spans, the Okoboji Bridge illustrates five decades of technological evolution. The truss itself is technologically noteworthy as a small-scale swing span - the only one of its kind known to remain in Iowa. The bridge's atypical bearing condition is reflected in the truss's web configuration. The center panel, upon which the bridge rested on its pivot pier, features an inverted V diagonal pattern. The truss is thus effectively a hybridization of Pratt and Warren technologies. Although its locational and structural integrity have been compromised substantially by the move, this steel superstructure is still a significant remnant of early transportation. [adapted from Fraser 1992]


Pony truss bridge over a branch of Little Sioux River on 180th Avenue
Okoboji, Dickinson County, Iowa
Bridge is privately owned by Parks Marina in Okoboji, awaiting re-erection over a pond on the grounds
Built in 1909 over the strait between West and East Okoboji Lakes, replaced in 1926 but the truss span was relocated to its present spot.
- Clinton Bridge & Iron Works of Clinton, Iowa
Thatcher pony truss
Length of largest span: 80.0 ft.
Total length: 83.0 ft.
Deck width: 15.7 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places
Also called
Okoboji Bridge (former)
Approximate latitude, longitude
+43.26073, -95.22966   (decimal degrees)
43°15'39" N, 95°13'47" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/319031/4792182 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Land survey
T. 98 N., R. 37 W., Sec. 33
Inventory numbers
IA 144820 (Iowa bridge number)
BH 13409 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • March 11, 2020: Updated by Jason Smith: Bridge has been relocated to Parks Marina and is privately owned. To be repurposed and reused as a pedestrian crossing soon.
  • May 4, 2018: Updated by Luke: Updated status: In Storage
  • August 27, 2017: New photo from Luke
  • October 16, 2013: Updated by Clark Vance: Added category "Laced endposts"
  • October 16, 2013: Updated by Jason Smith: Added categories "damaged by flooding", "Riveted"
  • August 5, 2011: New photo from Luke Harden
  • August 5, 2011: Updated by Jason Smith: Combined the data provided by Luke Harden/ Bridge was taken off its foundation by flooding in 2011

Related Bridges 



Okoboji Bridge
Posted March 11, 2020, by Jason Smith (flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com)

Lost no more! :-) The bridge has a new owner with plans to repurpose it. The question is how? Details and photos here: https://bridgehunterschronicles.wordpress.com/2020/03/11/the...

Okoboji Bridge
Posted May 4, 2018, by Luke

According to the updated Iowa Historic Bridge Inventory, the bridge has been placed into storage.

Okoboji Bridge
Posted April 29, 2018, by John Marvig (marvigj27 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Bridge appears to have been scrapped..