11 votes

Sutliff Bridge


Photo taken by Historic American Engineering Record

BH Photo #115182

Street View 


Provided by Iowa DOT

Description: The Sutliff Bridge spans the Cedar River in the small town of Sutliff, named after long-time resident Allen C. Sutliff. Dry crossings of the Cedar River at this location date to the establishment of the Allan Sutliff's Ferry Service in 1838. Sandbars eventually formed in the river, however, rendering the ferry inoperative, therefore forcing travelers to make a long detour in order to find a suitable crossing. Dissatisfied with this state of affairs, area residents petitioned county supervisors for a permanent structure at Sutliff. City officials finally voted in December 1896 to construct a steel bridge at the old ferry site. To design the bridge, the county turned to an engineer named G.W. Wynn who, it appears, had rather dubious credentials. Referring to Wynn, one Iowa City newspaper reported that the bridge builder's "work has been severely criticized by engineers of high standing." Fortunately, the Sutliff Bridge proved to be a sound structure. The county awarded the contract to erect the bridge to J.R. Sheely and Company of Des Moines on January 8, 1897. Completed for approximately $12,000 in April 1898, the bridge was the longest in the county at that time. Over a thousand people, responding to a local newspaper's request for "All hands to turn out and have a good time," gathered at the new bridge on a beautiful June morning that year for its opening day ceremonies and celebratory picnic. Many decades later, area residents again rallied around their beloved bridge when they worked together to raise money to purchase the Sutliff Bridge from Johnson County in 1984. Currently used as a pedestrian bridge in connection with a surrounding public park, the Sutliff Bridge retains an exceptionally high degree of both historical and structural integrity. It is an outstanding example of an uncommon early wagon truss design.


Three span through truss bridge over Cedar River on CR F14
Johnson County, Iowa
One span destroyed by flooding June 2008 - Restored summer 2012
Built 1897-98; destroyed by flooding June 13, 2008, Restored summer 2012
- Fair-Williams Bridge & Manufacturing Co. of Ottumwa, Iowa (Fabricator)
- George W. Wynn of Iowa City, Iowa (Designer)
- Iowa Bridge & Culvert LLC of Washington, Iowa (2012 Replica Spans)
- J.R. Sheely & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa (Contractor)
- Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania & Woodlawn, Pennsylvania (Steel Manufacturer)
- VJ Engineering of Coralville, Iowa/Cedar Falls, Iowa (Replica Spans)
Three pin-connected, 11-panel Parker through trusses
Length of largest span: 214.5 ft.
Total length: 825.0 ft.
Deck width: 16.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 14.0 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on May 15, 1998
Also called
Sutliff's Ferry Bridge (original name)
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.83954, -91.39231   (decimal degrees)
41°50'22" N, 91°23'32" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/633480/4633210 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory numbers
NRHP 98000520 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 36704 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • September 2, 2015: New photo from Luke
  • March 20, 2014: Updated by Dave King: Added vertical clearance measurement
  • March 20, 2014: New photo from Roger Deschner
  • October 18, 2013: New Street View added by Luke Harden
  • September 5, 2013: Photo imported by Dave King
  • September 1, 2013: New photos from Jason Smith
  • July 8, 2013: New photos from Diane Martin
  • October 7, 2012: New photos from Quinn Phelan
  • September 30, 2012: New photo from Quinn Phelan
  • June 21, 2012: New photo from Ruth Reynolds
  • September 2, 2011: New photos from Jason Smith
  • December 4, 2010: New photos from Jason Smith
  • December 18, 2008: Essay added by Quinn Phelan
  • December 11, 2008: New photos from Quinn Phelan
  • June 16, 2008: New photos from Historic American Engineering Record



Sutliff Bridge
Posted July 9, 2014, by Dave King (DKinghawkfan [at] hotmail [dot] com)

The Sutliff Bridge was used as a secret location for Herky on Parade.


Sutliff Bridge
Posted March 20, 2014, by Roger Deschner (rogerdeschner [at] gmail [dot] com)

I've been on a project to digitize all my old photos, and I came across these three nice pictures (116-118) of the Sutliff Bridge in Iowa that I took back in 1989, long before the flood washed out one span.

Sutliff Bridge
Posted July 8, 2013, by Jason Smith (JDSmith77 [at] gmx [dot] net)

That's the primary reason why we're choosing the Sutliff Bridge as our venue for the HB Weekend for Saturday night (in August)! I was there twice when the easternmost span was amputated and am looking forward to seeing the bridge fully restored and in use again. I think a lot of people really enjoy having Sutliff back in service again... :-)

Sutliff Bridge
Posted July 8, 2013, by Diane Martin

It had been years since I had been in this area. The renovation is wonderful. It was a beautiful day and there were many enjoying the beautiful new/old bridge.

Sutliff Bridge
Posted December 3, 2012, by Anonymous


Sutliff Bridge
Posted October 3, 2012, by jayhawk

I'm not too bothered by this one. I have a lot more of an architectural interest in bridges than a historical preservation interest which seems to be more of the focus of this site, so I hope I won't get run off...

I'd think of it this way - one of the spans had already collapsed. The other two couldn't have been in much better shape, and the bridge was one vote away from being torn down.

The new span looks a lot like the old one. A lot. The old spans are now safe. Yes, there have been changes in the structural details - but without making those changes, I doubt that this project would have happened.

I'd love to see every bridge preserved using the original materials. This is the second best option, and it's a lot better than having the span torn down.

Sutliff Bridge
Posted October 3, 2012, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Not a very good description of restoration in kind. Nor a great descriptiin of finding and reusing other spans. This is only a replica of a look. A new gusset plate bolted bridge. Most will not know the difference and we lost an opportunity because of engineers that refuse more education from engineers doing restoration work.

SPIFFY? well yes and even better structurally sound.

I may even have a beer there, but like the Hale Bridge our SHPO didn't go far enough. FyI Workin' Bridges did try there and at Motor Mill but the engineers refused to work with us to find alternate solutions which are out there.

Sutliff Bridge
Posted October 3, 2012, by Luke Harden (lmharden [at] iastate [dot] edu)

They* instead of we.

Sutliff Bridge
Posted October 3, 2012, by Luke Harden (lmharden [at] iastate [dot] edu)

We wanted a replica of the preexisting bridge spans, not someone else' derelict bridge that looks different and is merely spiffed up.

Sutliff Bridge
Posted October 3, 2012, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

At what cost? Nearly 2 million. Could have really restored and reuaed for that cost. Pedestrians and FEMA money. Bad lessons about pin connected brisges.

Sutliff Bridge
Posted October 3, 2012, by Luke Harden (lmharden [at] iastate [dot] edu)

Because building a new span so people can still use it as a crossing is TOTALLY a complete waste. /obvioussarcasm/

At least they bothered to save it.

Sutliff Bridge
Posted October 3, 2012, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

This bridge was not saved. It was built new with mega fema money. One new span and gusset plates welded over every pin on the other two spans.


Figure out the dates on this with rehab and new.

Sutliff Bridge
Posted October 3, 2012, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

This bridge was not saved. It was built new with mega fema money. One new span and gusset plates welded over every pin on the other two spans.


Figure out the dates on this with rehab and new.

Sutliff Bridge
Posted October 2, 2012, by Chris Perry

Nice to see this bridge saved! Looking forward to seeing the finished result.

Sutliff Bridge
Posted September 23, 2012, by Luke Harden (lmharden [at] iastate [dot] edu)
Sutliff Bridge
Posted November 24, 2011, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)


Iowa Bridge and Culvert won the bid for the replica of this span. Congratulations to them. I don't believe it is the best solution, as there are other Parker trusses out there that could have been utilzed for this restoration. They are going with bolts and gusset plates over pin connections on the other two spans.

This is an outcome,and we get so few. I think I"m happy, in the long run, that bar is going to do some great business when the bridge is back and everyone should go to that part of Johnson County, pretty near the bridge park.

Maybe Iowa should be next year's site for the conference as there will be work in progress.

Sutliff Bridge
Posted July 29, 2011, by Luke Harden (lmharden [at] iastate [dot] edu)

Good news everyone! Bridge rebuilding was scheduled to begin in October! source: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/press_citizen/access/2339612921....

Supervisors vote to restore Sutliff Bridge
Posted April 8, 2010, by Quinn Phelan (qphelan [at] earthlink [dot] net)

From the GazetteOnline, April 7, 2010

The 112-year-old Sutliff Bridge will be saved.

The Johnson County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 tonight to rebuild the historic structure

“We should save a piece of our county’s history. My vote is to save Sutliff Bridge,” Supervisor Terrence Neuzil said.

He was joined by Rod Sullivan and Janelle Rettig in voting in favor of restoration. Board Chairwoman Sally Stutsman and Pat Harney voted against.

“To me, the bridge is gone,” Stutsman said. “The bridge was destroyed in the flood of 2008.”

The 2008 flood swept away one-third of Sutliff Bridge, which is over the Cedar River in the northeast corner of the county. It opened in 1898 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was closed to vehicular traffic in the 1980s but remains a popular tourist spot.

That missing section will now be rebuilt in a design similar to what stood before.

The county had two main choices: accept federal funds to repair the bridge, or take most of that money and spend it on another project. If the bridge was not rebuilt, what was left of it would have to be removed.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has said it will pay to replace the bridge, a cost estimated at $1.7 million, plus another $440,000 or so to bring it up to code.

Andy Johnson, the board’s executive assistant, said the decision was not necessarily final. FEMA approved the money to bring the bridge up to code, but it’s not yet obligated. The agency has said the board could change its mind if the money, for some reason, does not come through

Sutliff Bridge
Posted September 9, 2008, by L Herman (accordionlinda [at] verizon [dot] net)

As of Sept 08 2 spans of the bridge remain. A pin inspection will be done. If they pass, well, they probably will be saved. Possibly a footbridge will be built to the 2 spans. Regardless, many people hope that the 2 spans can remain. The collapsed span is nearby and will have to be removed. The Bridge Authority in charge of the bridge has been seeking donations. Sutliff Bridge is a special place. Beautiful even with 2 spans. SAVE THE BRIDGE!!!

Sutliff Bridge
Posted June 26, 2008, by Chad Kelham (ckelham [at] ballstate [dot] bsu [dot] edu)

It saddens me that one of Iowa's more historical through truss bridges had to be sacrificed to all the recent flooding; the Sutliff bridge from what I saw was one of the best through trusses around.