1 vote

Watts Bridge


View West From South Bank

Photo taken by Historic American Engineering Record

View photos at Library of Congress

BH Photo #156360


Lost Bowstring pony truss bridge over Pope Creek on 16th Street
Mercer County, Illinois
Replaced by new bridge
Built 1870; rehabilitated 1884 and 1914; replaced 1989
- Decatur Bridge Co. of Decatur, Illinois (Abutment Rebuild 1914)
- Mt. Vernon Bridge Co. of Mt. Vernon, Ohio
Bowstring pony truss
Length of largest span: 63.5 ft.
Total length: 65.5 ft.
Deck width: 16.0 ft.
Also called
Keithsburg Bridge
Wycoff Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.11071, -90.92915   (decimal degrees)
41°06'39" N, 90°55'45" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/673874/4553114 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 44258 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • February 20, 2019: New photo from Melissa Brand-Welch
  • February 27, 2010: Added by Robert Stephenson

Related Bridges 


  • Robert Stephenson - seinfeld99 [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • HAER IL-34 - Keithsburg Bridge, Sixteenth Street Spanning Pope Creek, Keithsburg, Mercer County, IL
  • Melissa Brand-Welch - melissabrandwelch [at] msn [dot] com


Watts Bridge
Posted February 20, 2019, by Luke
Watts Bridge
Posted February 20, 2019, by Luke

Lois, thank you for the pictures! I added them to the entry for the bridge at the spot it was relocated. Can you help use refine the location it was moved to?

Watts Bridge
Posted February 20, 2019, by Lois Bopp Retherford (LA-Retherford [at] wiu [dot] edu)

I have three photos taken of the Watts Bridge during its move in 1989 since my father, Francis Bopp, was involved in the process. There was an article at the time but I can't put my hands on it right now. I would have to do some research at the museum to see if I could come up with it.

Watts Bridge
Posted October 26, 2017, by Luke

If anything, it's probably a bridge built by the BSA.

FWIW the address I found for the resort puts it on the opposite side of the reserve (9821 207th St W, Illinois City)

Watts Bridge
Posted October 26, 2017, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Do you think the bridge I see in the Boy Scout Camp is just a MOB bridge? There is a bridge of some sort there.

Watts Bridge
Posted October 25, 2017, by Luke

Nathan, the spot you have is the Boy Scout camp.

Watts Bridge
Posted October 24, 2017, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)


That really is a tragic story, after you went to such effort to save an extremely rare and important historic bridge! Did the collapse you describe happen recently? Also, I was trying to guess where the bridge and former campground was located, is this the area? https://goo.gl/maps/Apa53xQ1Cet 41.423267, -90.813707

We would be interested in any photos and videos of the bridge that you would be willing to share! We would be interested in photos of the bridge prior to the collapse, but I also would be curious to see what condition the bridge is in today.

Watts Bridge
Posted October 24, 2017, by George Carpenter (gcarp1952 [at] gmail [dot] com)

The Watts Bridge is not lost at all!

With my family and a crew of a dozen curious helpers, I moved the bridge in one piece 30 miles from the site near

Keithsburg to my campground, THUNDERHEAD RESORT KAMP near Illinois City, Illinois in 1989. Unable to get proper clearance to travel on state highways, I had to take the bridge cross-country through Joy, Illinois to cross Route 17. It was pulled by a 2 cylinder John Deere tractor with a 3 axle trailer and the running gear of a wagon. I have a full video of the journey including the 3 blown tires from the heavy load. I installed it over a creek in our campground and over 7,000 guests rode over the bridge during September and October, 1995 on hayracks. Sadly, a fast, 6inch rain in a few hours floated a huge tree downstream and pushed the bridge off its foundation. I have not and may not try to recover it. I am 84 and we closed our campground in 1996. One of the bow trusses was destroyed in the flood and may not be repairable. gc

Watts Bridge
Posted January 16, 2016, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Regarding the shoes. Just been having discussions on shoes that do not use pins for connections .... the cast base, from what I've read, uses friction of the top chord sitting in the slots. the eye bars on ours come through the back to be connected and they were not attached to the piers

WIBCo verticals ususally aren't outrigger type shown here, they balance the lacing bars and posts and come together in the middle to connect.

Upper Chord is pretty square. WBCo usually has a bit of a curve in its tubular-ness.

Others may have more informed clues to builder, but with the records lost....they did say they thought they went back to the builder to repair. I enclose a King diagram of a shoe.

Watts Bridge
Posted January 15, 2016, by ArtS (asuckewer [at] knite [dot] com)

Looking at the photos of this bridge, I'm pretty confident that HAER's guess on the builder, based on the bridge co. that fixed it in the 1880s, is wrong. To me, this bridge has the attributes of a Wrought Iron Bridge Co. product. Specifically, the Keystone like tubular arches that have always been attributed to WIBC on this site. I'll hold off changing it in case anyone disagrees.


Art S.

PS. Are its shoes on backwards?