Van Buren County built the Keosauqua Bridge, its first major bridge over the Des Moines River, in 1873. Soon thereafter other communities along the river began clamoring for bridges of their own, prompting the county board of supervisors to pass a resolution in January 1877 regarding bridge construction.
In April 1882 the supervisors received petitions for three Des Moines River bridges-- Pittsburgh, Farmington and Bentonsport--along with pledges from the petitioners to help pay for the construction. The board approved all three, appropriating $25,000, "or so much thereof as may be necessary," to build the structures. The county hired local masons Snyder and Kramer for the stonework on the Bentonsport Bridge. The King Iron Bridge and Manufacturing Company would fabricate and erect the wrought iron trusses for $31 per lineal foot. Comprised of five 146-foot, pinned Pratt trusses, the Bentonsport Bridge was completed at a total cost of $33,309.39. In June 1888 the county hired Fair Williams and Company of Ottumwa, Iowa, to install iron ice-breaker plates on the upstream side of the piers. But the ice-breakers could only do so much to protect the bridge. In 1903 a major flood on the Des Moines River inundated the town of Bentonsport and washed away the bridge's middle span. The county contracted with the George E. King Bridge Company of Des Moines to provide a replacement span. Local lore states that the replacement was erected on the frozen river that winter and hoisted into place with derricks. Motive power was provided by elephants from a circus troupe that was wintering nearby in northern Missouri. In 1972 parts of Bentonsport and Vernon--and the bridge--were designated a National Register Historic District. The Bentonsport Bridge carried traffic until 1985. It now functions as a pedestrian bridge to link the two towns.
Before the formation of the state highway commission, the individual counties of Iowa built wagon bridges themselves, typically contracting with bridge companies to design, fabricate and erect the all-metal spans. Numerous multiple-span bridges were built in this manner throughout Iowa in the late 19th century, many of the more spectacular examples spanning the Des Moines River in the southeast part of the state. Van Buren County eventually built eight large-scale bridges over the Des Moines River--at Selma, Douds, Keosauqua, Bentonsport, Bonaparte and Farmington. Although not the first such structures built, the Bentonsport Bridge is noteworthy as the oldest remaining intact bridge in the county. In well-preserved condition, the Bentonsport Bridge is an outstanding early wagon truss - one of the last multiple-span bridges from this formative period in Iowa transportation [adapted from Fraser 1991].
- Bridge over Des Moines River on trail
- Bentonsport, Van Buren County, Iowa
- Open to pedestrians
- Built 1882, removed from vehicular service 1985
- - George E. King Bridge Co. of Des Moines, Iowa (Replacement span)
- King Bridge Co. of Cleveland, Ohio
- Snyder and Kramer (Stonework)
- Pratt through truss
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on April 25, 1972
- Approximate latitude, longitude
- +40.72420, -91.85408 (decimal degrees)
40°43'27" N, 91°51'15" W (degrees°minutes'seconds")
- Approximate UTM coordinates
- 15/596775/4508772 (zone/easting/northing)
- USGS topographic map
- Inventory numbers
- NRHP 362730 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 49245 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
- August 24, 2012: Photo imported by Luke Harden
- May 10, 2012: Photo imported by Luke Harden
- May 4, 2012: Updated by Tony Dillon: Removed from Rail-to-trail category as this was never a railroad span.
- May 4, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added additional builder info
- July 29, 2011: Added by Luke Harden
- Luke Harden - lukemh9 [at] gmail [dot] com
- Tony Dillon - spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com
- Historicbridges.org - by Nathan Holth