Description: The Chain Lakes Bridge is a substantial two-span structure over the Cedar River northwest of Cedar Rapids, just south of the small community of Palo. The bridge now serves pedestrians visiting a nature area maintained by the Linn County Conservation Board. A picnic area and boat landing are near the bridge's south approach; the northern bank is heavily wooded. County board minutes are somewhat unclear about the history of this bridge, but planning for it apparently began in the early 1880s. In June 1880 the Board of Supervisors appropriated $20,000 for this two-span, pinned Pratt truss on massive stone abutments and piers. Information regarding bridge construction is not included in subsequent board minutes, although a now-removed bridge plate recorded the contractor as the Wrought Iron Bridge Company of Canton, Ohio, and the date of erection as 1884. The Wrought Iron Bridge Company was organized by David Hammond in 1864, and incorporated in 1871. It was active in Linn County from at least 1879, receiving contracts for a number of bridges. In 1900, the company was absorbed by the American Bridge Company. The wrought-iron Chain Lakes Bridge continues to serve pedestrians in its heavily wooded location.
With virtually all of the in-state and national bridge companies promoting it, the pin-connected Pratt through truss was the steel bridge of choice for medium- and large-scale crossings in Iowa in the late 19th century. Thousands of such spans were erected on the state's road system during this period of intense bridge construction activity, and today they remain the most populous structural type remaining from the 19th century. The Chain Lakes Bridge is distinguished among these for its two-span configuration, its early erection date and its outstanding state of preservation.