2 votes

Turkey River Bridge


Photo taken by Robert Elder


BH Photo #110342


Among the Winneshiek County bridges included in Iowa's historic bridge inventory is this 12-panel bowstring through arch. The structure crosses Turkey River south of Festina in southern Winneshiek County. The wrought iron arch dates to 1873. In the spring of that year Washington Township citizens presented the county bridge commissioner with a request for a permanent bridge over the Turkey River. The commissioner, after reviewing the petition, agreed that there was a justifiable need for a crossing at this location, but decided to delay action owing to the county schedule, already replete with new bridge construction. Soon thereafter the bridge over the Turkey River was evidently approved by county officials and let out to bid. The structure was fabricated and erected by the Ohio-based Wrought Iron Bridge Company, often contracted by Winneshiek County, for an undisclosed amount of money. The truss's bridge plate reveals that the firm completed the bridge the same year. Excluding a deck replacement in 1978, the Turkey River Bridge continues to carry local traffic in virtually unchanged condition. In its extensive dealings with the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, Winneshiek County was simply following a regional trend. As this county and hundreds of others in the Midwest contracted with the Ohio-based bridge company in the 1870s, Wrought Iron quickly became one of the largest fabricators in America. In addition, its president, David Hammond, distinguished himself as one of the country's most prolific bridge innovators. Documentation shows that the primary superstructural type marketed by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company in the 1870s was the bowstring arch-truss made up of wrought and cast iron components. The bowstring was the most commonly erected all-metal bridge of the 1870s, owing in large part to Wrought Iron and its main competitor, the King Bridge and Manufacturing Company of Cleveland, Ohio. The first and second manufacturers in the country during the decade, both companies fabricated standardized versions of their own patented bowstring design. The Turkey River Bridge is thus both technologically significant because it is an early example of a once prevalent bridge design, the bowstring arch-truss, and it is historically notable since it was erected by one of the most prolific bridge builders in the Midwest during this decade, the Wrought Iron Bridge Company [adapted from Crow-Dolby and Fraser 1992].

This nationally significant historic bridge was considered the third longest bowstring truss span in the United States.


Bowstring through truss bridge over Turkey River on Little Church Road
Winneshiek County, Iowa
Demolished and replaced with a slab of concrete. Removed from NRHP 10-15-14
Future prospects
Bridge has been demolished and replaced. The county ran out of money and the estimate to relocate and preserve as a non-functional exhibit was higher than expected.
Built 1873 by the Wrought Iron Bridge Co. Demolished and replaced in 2010.
- Wrought Iron Bridge Co. of Canton, Ohio
Bowstring through truss
Length of largest span: 159.1 ft.
Total length: 177.2 ft.
Deck width: 16.1 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 15.7 ft.
Also called
Little Church Road Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+43.08512, -91.89393   (decimal degrees)
43°05'06" N, 91°53'38" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/590030/4770860 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Saint Lucas
Land survey
T. 96 N., R. 9 W., Sec. 34
Average daily traffic (as of 2001)
Inventory numbers
IA 346440 (Iowa bridge number)
NRHP 98000468 (National Register of Historic Places reference number)
BH 14750 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of March 2010)
Overall condition: Poor
Superstructure condition rating: Serious (3 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 19.3 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • November 23, 2014: Updated by Dave King: Updated NRHP status: Removed 10-15-14
  • July 22, 2011: Updated by Luke Harden: Added description
  • August 24, 2010: Updated by Nathan Holth: This bridge has been demolished and replaced.
  • June 24, 2009: Updated by Jason Smith
  • February 6, 2008: New photos from Jason Smith


  • Robert Elder - robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Jason Smith - flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com
  • Nathan Holth
  • Luke
  • Historicbridges.org - by Nathan Holth
  • Dave King - DKinghawkfan [at] hotmail [dot] com


Turkey River Bridge
Posted August 25, 2010, by Anthony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Another classic American landmark, right down the............

Turkey River Bridge
Posted August 25, 2010, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

This is a surprising development. I knew the bridge had been replaced, but I was under the impression that the old bridge was in storage.

Turkey River Bridge
Posted August 24, 2010, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Sorry folks. You thought a nationally significant 1870s iron bowstring thru truss was going to be preserved? You thought wrong. This is America.

Next time, cover the bridge up with plywood and tell 'em its a covered bridge and watch the federal preservation funds pour in for the bridge.

Without a wooden covering, this nationally significant historic bridge only had access to the normal "more funding for expensive replacement bridges than inexpensive rehab projects" that our broken federal and state transportation funding aid system provides and perpetrates. With very little in-house funds, the county could not afford to preserve the bridge.

Turkey River Bridge
Posted June 24, 2009, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Glad to hear that there are plans to preserve this bridge albeit in a different location. I figured that this bridge could be used on one of the pedestrian and bike trails in Decorah.

Turkey River Bridge
Posted September 2, 2007, by Robert L. Elder (Bass-tbn [at] ku [dot] edu)

Sorry, the pics did not upload in the format I wanted. I will try to post them as TIFFs or JPEGs from a different computer later. If you have Photoshop 7.0 you should be able to view the current pics.

Turkey River Bridge
Posted September 2, 2007, by Robert Elder (Bass-tbn [at] ku [dot] edu)