2 votes

Cottonwood Creek Bridge


Looking north.

Photo taken by Robert Elder in September 2008


BH Photo #124629



Through truss bridge over Cottonwood Creek, 3.5 mi. east and 1.7 mi. south of Bendena
Doniphan County, Kansas
Open to traffic
Built pre-1900.
Pin-connected, 5-panel Pratt through truss with shortened middle panel
Length of largest span: 73.1 ft.
Total length: 75.1 ft.
Deck width: 16.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 16.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+39.71461, -95.11445   (decimal degrees)
39°42'53" N, 95°06'52" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/318754/4398220 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Atchison NE
Average daily traffic (as of 2017)
Inventory numbers
KS 000221057003387 (Kansas local bridge number on the National Bridge Inventory)
BH 17689 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of October 2018)
Overall condition: Poor
Superstructure condition rating: Serious (3 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 28.3 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • May 1, 2021: New photos from Nick Schmiedeler
  • January 26, 2010: Updated by Robert Elder: Adjusted GPS Coordinates
  • July 3, 2009: Updated by Robert Elder: Edited History and Categories. According to NBI, the bridge was built pre-1900.
  • September 15, 2008: New photos from Robert Elder


  • Robert Elder - robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Nick Schmiedeler - nick [at] nickschmiedeler [dot] com


Cottonwood Creek Bridge
Posted May 1, 2021, by Nick Schmiedeler (nick [at] nickschmiedeler [dot] com)

5 year update....still going strong, bridge to immediate south of this 120 y.o. has been replaced with a UCEB and road is gated off to private property 100 yards from there, with another bridge over creek now shut off to traffic

Cottonwood Creek Bridge
Posted June 12, 2016, by Nathan Holth (nathan [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Field visited this bridge June 2016. Photos to eventually/someday end up on HistoricBridges.org. Key finding: This was a originally a standard Pratt through and, based on concrete abutments, likely relocated here. When it was relocated, the center panel was narrowed. Visitors to the bridge should note the most obvious evidence aside from the narrow center panel length is that the bottom chord eyebar was cut to shorten it, and a splice riveted together on it at the center to reuse it as a shorter eyebar. The fact that the bottom chord splice is riveted is evidence that this shortening of the truss happened a long time ago.

Cottonwood Creek Bridge
Posted September 16, 2008, by Robert L. Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Thanks Tony, that makes sense. I had just used the term diagonal members or tension rods, so thanks for the more specific terminology.

I have often suspected that wrought iron and steel was both used on some bridges during the 1890s and perhaps even the early 1900s. Have a look at the Long Shoals Bridge in Bourbon Co. Kansas. This is a 1902 Parker through truss with highly decorative portals. I suspect that both wrought iron and steel were used on that bridge.

For anyone reading this, it should also be noted that cast iron was used on bridges before 1876.

Cottonwood Creek Bridge
Posted September 15, 2008, by Anthony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

You will have to excuse the typo's on the previous post. It's late and I've been up way to long. Good Night!

Cottonwood Creek Bridge
Posted September 15, 2008, by Anthony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)


Don't worry, it took me years to learn all this stuff. When I went to take Indiana's bridge inspection certification (to work on an iron bridge-mind you, there wasn't one sentence in it about truss bridges. ANYWAY...lets see if I can explain this without being more confusing. In the Pratt truss you have the verticals and diagonals that make up each panel. Designers found that stress reversal(from tension to compression and vice-versa) on a live load could cause fatigue, and possibly even break a diagonal. This is where the counter comes in to "counter"act the effects of the stress reversal. So the diagonal member that crosses the truss diagonal is the counter, together they form an X in the panel. On the earliest bridges it is not uncommon to see every panel countered. As truss bridges became heavier and stronger, counters were usually limited to the center panels where the load was the greatest. In the later years they were sometimes omitted altogether. This turned into a small essay, but I hope helped you.

As for Wrought iron vs. steel. I can't always tell. As a general rule most bridges built prior to 1890 were probably wrought iron. In the early 1890's iron and steel were often mixed. And by the late 1890's stell had pretty well taken over. Wrought iron was such a superior material to steel. I have seen iron bridges unpainted for many years with little or no section loss(rust through) on members, whereas the same bridge in steel would have severe structural problems.

OK I think I've said all I can for now, but feel free to contact me with any other questions. And thanks for all your great pics of Kansas bridges.


Cottonwood Creek Bridge
Posted September 15, 2008, by Robert L. Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I am going to have to show my ignorance here, but what is a counter?

I also would like to know if this bridge is wrought iron or steel. Are there any easy, simple ways to tell? I know that wrought iron can be bent into different shapes and consequently can be used for more decorative portals.

Cottonwood Creek Bridge
Posted September 15, 2008, by Anthony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

I've never seen one quite like this. A through truss this short, and all of the panels having counters(including that unusual center panel) would normally indicate a fairly old bridge. It is a pinned span, but can't tell if it's steel or wrought iron.

Cottonwood Creek Bridge
Posted September 15, 2008, by Robert Elder (bass-tbn [at] ku [dot] edu)

Upon quick glance, this would appear to be a standard Pratt through truss. The bridge has some rather unique features however. The middle panel is considerably narrower than the others. Notice also that none of the panels have only one vertical member.