3 votes

Matsell Bridge


Looking North toward the Matsell park entrance

The bridge is the main entrence to the Matsell Bridge Natural Area, 20 miles Northeast of Cedar Rapids, IA.

Photo taken by Quinn Phelan in December 2008


BH Photo #130251

Street View 


History from Iowa DOT

Description: Matsell Bridge is a steel plate girder crossing the Wapsipinicon River some six miles northeast of Springville in eastern Linn County. This structure replaced a substantial earlier bridge consisting of a 100-foot through truss, a 140-foot bowstring truss, a 50-foot pony truss, and a 12-foot approach span. This assemblage was erected by the county between 1870 and 1906. When a replacement structure was being considered in July 1938, two possibilities were evaluated. One called for two through trusses with a 50-foot stringer approach span, at a cost of about $23,800. The other option was a through plate girder, estimated at $22,290. E.W. Blumenschein sent plans to Behrens in mid-September, which Behrens, in turn, submitted to Clifford Shoemaker, District Engineer of the Federal Bureau of Public Roads in Omaha, Nebraska. Shoemaker approved the plan for "Iowa PWA Docket 1229-F." In February 1939, Blumenschein reviewed the bridge's steel fabrication at the Illinois Steel Bridge Company's plant in Jacksonville, Illinois: "The two girders were completely assembled for their entire length with floor beams in position and sufficient laterals to insure all main parts in correct position." He concluded that the material and workmanship was "very satisfactory." After his inspection, the members were disassembled and shipped to Linn County for erection. Since its construction, the Matsell Bridge, or Wapsie Bridge as it is locally known, continues to serve local residents while maintaining excellent structural integrity.
In the 1930s the state highway commission began using variable depth plate girders for its long-span beam bridges. These typically employed straight girders with arched or curved haunches at the abutments and piers to help withstand the increased sheer forces at the bearing points. The girders were rigidly joined to form a continuous-span structure. ISHC built several such beam bridges with spans in excess of 100 feet in the 1930s and 1940s. With a span length of 140 feet, the Matsell Bridge in Linn County represents the longest example of steel beam bridge design identified by the historic bridge inventory. It is thus distinguished as the ultimate extension of this relatively common structural type.


Plate girder bridge over Wapsipinicon River on Matsell Park Road
Linn County, Iowa
Open to traffic
Built 1939
- Amos Melberg Co. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Erection)
- E.W. Blumenschein of Ames, Iowa (Designer)
- Illinois Steel Bridge Co. of Jacksonville, Illinois (Fabrication)
- Iowa State Highway Commission of Ames, Iowa (Designer)
Pony plate girder
Length of largest span: 140.1 ft.
Total length: 303.2 ft.
Deck width: 20.0 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on May 15, 1998
Also called
Wapsie Bridge
Matsell Park Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+42.13024, -91.38357   (decimal degrees)
42°07'49" N, 91°23'01" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/633597/4665501 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Land survey
T. 85 N., R. 05 W., Sec. 36
Average daily traffic (as of 2017)
Inventory numbers
IA 222050 (Iowa bridge number)
NRHP 98000534 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 13859 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of July 2018)
Overall condition: Fair
Superstructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 58.4 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • May 4, 2018: Updated by Luke: Added builder
  • October 1, 2013: Photo imported by Dave King
  • June 8, 2013: Updated by Luke Harden: Added builder
  • June 8, 2013: New Street View added by Dave King
  • May 10, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added categories "Iowa State Highway Commission", "Works Progress Administration"
  • July 26, 2011: Updated by Luke Harden: Changed name, added description.
  • September 20, 2010: Updated by Jason Smith: Changed the name of the bridge
  • December 19, 2008: Essay added by Quinn Phelan
  • December 13, 2008: New photos from Quinn Phelan

Related Bridges 


  • Quinn Phelan - qphelan [at] earthlink [dot] net
  • Jason Smith - flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com
  • Historic Bridges of Iowa
  • Luke
  • Dave King - DKinghawkfan [at] hotmail [dot] com