5 votes

Chambers Ford Bridge


South end looking north.

Photo taken by Ray Kasal in October 2008


BH Photo #133802



In April 1890 the Tama County Board of Supervisors received a petition from S. Wyman and other citizens of Salt Creek Township for a permanent bridge over the Iowa River southeast of Chelsea. The supervisors visited the proposed site, known locally as the Chambers Ford, the following month. They agreed to construct an iron bridge at this point if the citizens would "procure a right-of-way for said bridge and build all necessary trestle work on said right-of-way and all approaches to said bridge." The County Auditor subsequently solicited bids for the bridge's erection, and on July 11th a contract was let to the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works of Clinton, Iowa, for a single-span, pin-connected Pratt truss. Apparently completed later that year, the Chambers Ford Bridge functioned in place with only maintenance-related repairs for ten years. By the turn of the century, however, the original timber trestle approach that the local citizens had built on one end had deteriorated beyond the point of repair. In September 1902 the board of supervisors inspected the bridge and met with representatives of bridge firms at nearby Belle Plaine. A contract for the repair work, which included the erection of a new Lackawanna and Jones and Laughlin, King erected the new span during the fall and winter of 1902-03. Work was completed by April 1903, whereupon the county issued a warrant to King in the amount of $3,987. Since that time, the two-span structure has carried vehicular traffic in essentially unaltered condition. The south span is part of the original 1890 structure built by the Clinton Bridge and Iron Works, while to the north is the span built by the George E. King Bridge Company in 1903. 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-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 Chambers Ford Bridge is distinguished among these for its staged construction, two-span configuration and well-preserved physical state [adapted from Fraser 1990].


Pratt through truss bridge over Iowa River on 380th Street
Tama County, Iowa
Demolished and replaced per ACME Mapper Satellite
Built 1890 & 1903; rehabilitated 1938
- Clinton Bridge & Iron Works of Clinton, Iowa (1890 South span)
- George E. King Bridge Co. of Des Moines, Iowa (1903 North span)
Two pinned Pratt through trusses
Length of largest span: 159.1 ft.
Total length: 345.2 ft.
Deck width: 15.1 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 12.6 ft.
Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on May 15, 1998
Also called
Iowa River Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.88390, -92.33544   (decimal degrees)
41°53'02" N, 92°20'08" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/555137/4637099 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Belle Plaine
Land survey
T. 82 N., R. 13 W., Sec. 26
Average daily traffic (as of 2013)
Inventory numbers
IA 316660 (Iowa bridge number)
NRHP 98000482 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 14467 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of January 2015)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • June 3, 2019: Updated by Nathan Holth: Demolished and replaced.
  • May 27, 2017: New photo from Ray Kasal
  • August 8, 2016: Updated by Jason Smith: This bridge is doomed. To be replaced by a new structure and removed once the new bridge opens
  • April 17, 2014: New photos from James Baughn
  • April 16, 2014: Updated by Nathan Holth: Added details about bridge doom/availability.
  • August 26, 2013: Updated by Luke Harden: Doomed
  • June 11, 2013: New photo from Dave King
  • February 23, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added category "Clinton Bridge & Iron Works"
  • September 18, 2011: Updated by Anthony Dillon: added builder
  • September 18, 2011: New photos from Quinn Phelan
  • July 26, 2011: Updated by Luke Harden: Added description
  • June 30, 2010: Updated by Anthony Dillon: Changed to common name
  • February 21, 2009: New photo from Ray Kasal
  • February 20, 2009: New photo from Ray Kasal


  • Ray Kasal - raykasal [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • Tony Dillon - spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • Dave King - DKinghawkfan [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • Luke
  • Quinn Phelan - qphelan [at] earthlink [dot] net
  • Nathan Holth
  • Jason Smith - flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com


Chambers Ford Bridge
Posted May 27, 2017, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

2 Million for a 50 Car a day bridge... Makes sense to me!

Chambers Ford Bridge
Posted May 27, 2017, by Dave King (DKinghawkfan [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Damn shame.

Chambers Ford Bridge
Posted August 8, 2016, by Jason Smith (flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com)
Chambers Ford Bridge
Posted June 16, 2015, by Julie (Jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

There are some lessons for other states from some states struggling for preservation. I would suggest that the attached MOA gives NOTHING to the preservationist and IT"S JUST WRONG!.

I am sharing here because what we do at Workin' Bridges can be GREAT like the bridge park we are working on. and then there is this. time for a change in Iowa.

Attachment #1 (application/pdf; 2,167,324 bytes)

Attachment #2 (application/pdf; 970,098 bytes)

Chambers Ford Bridge
Posted June 9, 2015, by Nathan Holth

Contract let date anticipated is September 15, 2015. County is putting a time limit of the end of June for proposals for reuse.

Tama BROS-C086(84)--5F-86 C086 380th St.: between W Ave. and X Ave, over Iowa River. Bridge Replacement - Other 0.20 mi

Chambers Ford Bridge
Posted May 29, 2014, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

With help from Nathan and Nels we put together this letter to all participants and then a few more. Trying to get the word out to all federal agencies that they must do more to look at preservation options.

Attachment #1 (application/pdf; 183,844 bytes)

Chambers Ford Bridge
Posted May 23, 2014, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)
Chambers Ford Bridge
Posted May 13, 2014, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I was able to add some thoughts on preservation to the supervisors...the engineers were not keen to show their work when discussing costs to bypass or even knowing how much a move or costs of preservation might be.

This would be a tough save. Expensive pick. But at least the supervisors now have more info.

Chambers Ford Bridge
Posted April 25, 2014, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

More on the bridge for sale, including a reference to this site!:


Chambers Ford Bridge
Posted April 16, 2014, by Steven W Lindsey (SteveLindsey60 [at] hotmail [dot] com)

On April 16, 2014; bridge was advertised as needing a new home.

See: http://www.tamatoledonews.com/page/content.detail/id/547218/...

Chambers Ford Bridge
Posted August 26, 2013, by Dave King (DKinghawkfan [at] hotmail [dot] com)

This bridge is going to be replaced per Tama County Engineer. He didn't have a date set.

Chambers Ford Bridge
Posted July 31, 2013, by brandon (brandon_hilligas [at] hotmail [dot] com)

is it haunted? my uncle was talking to someone that was out there taking a bunch of pictures at night and caught a photo of a woman on the bridge.

Chambers Bridge
Posted October 7, 2010, by Lester stull (lesstull [at] mchsi [dot] com)

Yes chambers bridge runs east and west.We had alot of good times fishing off that bridge.

Iowa River Bridge
Posted June 30, 2010, by joey spading (frostydew19 [at] hotmail [dot] com)

me and my grandpa have fished off this bridge a million times. correct me if im wrong but isn't that on the west end looking east rather than south to north?

Iowa River Bridge
Posted June 30, 2010, by Dale Yeazel (d00buck [at] gmail [dot] com)

Lots of memories made out at Chambers Bridge! We miss you Jesse James!