1 vote

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge


Photo taken by Nick Schmiedeler in March 2017


BH Photo #383273



Bowstring pony truss bridge over Lyon Creek, 5.0 mi. south and 1.0 mi. west of Junction City
Geary County, Kansas
Derelict/abandoned with deck missing
Built ca. 1880
- Wrought Iron Bridge Co. of Canton, Ohio (likely fabricator)
Bowstring pony truss
Length of largest span: 69.9 ft.
Total length: 133.8 ft.
Deck width: 16.0 ft.
Eligible for the National Register of Historic Places
Approximate latitude, longitude
+38.93516, -96.87123   (decimal degrees)
38°56'07" N, 96°52'16" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
14/684510/4311736 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory numbers
KS 000310871104465 (Kansas local bridge number on the National Bridge Inventory)
BH 17747 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • July 12, 2020: New photos from James McCray
  • March 16, 2017: Updated by Robert Elder: Added category "Wrought Iron Bridge Co."
  • March 16, 2017: New photos from Nick Schmiedeler
  • January 21, 2010: Updated by Robert Elder: Updated Categories
  • October 2, 2009: Updated by Robert Elder: Edited Name, Overview, Design, and Design Description.


  • Robert Elder - robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Nick Schmiedeler - nick [at] nickschmiedeler [dot] com
  • James McCray - jamesinslocomb [at] yahoo [dot] com


Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted March 16, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Hi Nick:

I devised my theory before I realized that there were old limestone abutments under the newer concrete bents. These abutments might match the time period and spacing needed for this Bowstring. In this case, then perhaps this is the original location.

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted March 16, 2017, by Nick Schmiedeler

Another important note to bring up is that the property owner mentioned it was long known that the old limestone abutments that can be seen in the newest photo I just uploaded to the site were built out of limestone from the same quarry (Towanda limestone he said) that provided limestone for the original construction of the Topeka State Capitol, and at the same general time. So why would a bowstring Bridge be brought to this location later that most likely dates to the exact same time as those limestone abutments? I would surmise that this is the original bridge to that site but has just been altered severely. In addition it seemed clear that the property owner's thought was this is for sure the original bridge to the site.

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted March 16, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)


Thanks for the input. I was leaning towards possibility #1. I still consider this to be a highly significant bridge despite its alterations and possible relocation years ago.

I have seen photographs of bowstrings that were altered much more drastically than this one...

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted March 16, 2017, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

This bridge is clearly a product of the WIBC due to the keystone columns, which I've never known to be used by any other company. I strongly agree that the bridge is highly altered. The outriggers are welded, and star iron appears to have been replaced with rods which do not fit in between the lower chord plates as well. Distortion of lower chord also evident.

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted March 16, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Upon further review, this Bowstring does not seem to match other WIBC Bowstrings, save for the use of Keystone Columns on the top chord. There is no lacing on any of the verticals or outriggers.

There are three possibilities here:

1. The bridge has been heavily altered.

2. This bridge represents an unusual variation of the typical WIBC design.

3. The bridge was not built by the WIBC.

I am retaining the WIBC category for now, but will note "likely fabricator".

I still have a strong suspicion that this bridge was moved from some other location - even if the move happened a very long time ago.

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted March 16, 2017, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)


Great work on tracking down the bridge and the landowner! This appears to be a Wrought Iron Bridge Co. product constructed with Keystone columns. I was expecting a King or perhaps a Missouri Valley, so this is a bit of a surprise.

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted March 16, 2017, by Nick Schmiedeler

Had an incredible experience with friends Kevin from Topeka and Chris from Lawrence, met up with property owner, heard some great history about this one. Property owner mentioned land surrounding the bridge has been owned by his family and the neighbor's for several decades, they remember improvements being done to it in the 1960s, and the story that the bridge was originally built to reach just one home, apparently a man with a lot of pull, the county commissioner named Hap Adams, the obvious 1960s improvements being the concrete pillars to save this beauty from collapsing ...a true ancient relic we admired for more than an hour.

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted December 22, 2016, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

TL;DR: I would not be surprised if this bridge was relocated here. The construction date and builder are unknown.

This one remains a complete mystery. I am not sure about the date of ca. 1880, although that is not out of the realm of possibilities for a Bowstring. The KHRI does not give a date of construction. The NBI lists the Kansas Default Date of 1910, which is obviously incorrect unless the bridge was moved here in 1910.

Note that Geary (Davis) County already had a Whipple Truss in place by 1878 and that 1880 is about the time when the Bowstring design was falling out of favor. Still, the date of 1880 might be correct. Geary (Davis) County seems to have proposed, and likely passed, a bridge bond in 1879, so perhaps they did build a Bowstring in 1880. On the other hand, a Pratt truss over Clark's Creek in the county looks like a ca. 1880 Missouri Valley Bridge & Iron Works product, and might have been funded by the 1879 bond. If so, this would further indicate that Geary (Davis) County had already "graduated" from old Bowstrings to Pratts and Whipples by ca. 1878 - 1880.

According to the NBI, this bridge has a length of 69.9 feet. For reference, this is the same length, roughly, as the Bowstring at the grounds of KSHS in Topeka. (Don't get too excited, I am 99.99% sure we do not have a Buckeye Bridge Works span here). But, 69/70 feet is a rather short length, given the fact that Lyon Creek is borderline being a small river at this location. A longer span would not be unwanted.

Now, here is where things get interesting. Bowstring bridges did get moved around in Kansas. Thus, for now, I cannot rule out the possibility that this bridge was moved here. In addition, this bridge appears to have some sort of stringer approaches. This would be a bit unusual for a Bowstring in its original location, although perhaps not unprecedented. The overall length of the bridge, according to the NBI is roughly 133 feet. This length is well within the realm of a Bowstring. Thus, it would seem a bit unusual to not simply use a longer span or a double span bridge.

I still cannot identify the fabricator from the KSHS photo. Odds are it is King, Wrought Iron Bridge Company, or Missouri Valley Bridge & Iron Works.

The bridge appears to have channel type railings. Perhaps these are a later addition.

I have written the landowner to ask permission to enter the property, although the bridge may be public. That being said, it has not had an NBI inspection since 2007. This, perhaps it has reverted back to the landowner. An email to the County Engineer would confirm. The NBI does consider the bridge to be NRHP eligible. The KHRI does not, but that determination probably dates from the early 1980s.

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted December 15, 2016, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

KSHS page with photo:


Spoiler alert...I cannot identify the builder from the photograph.

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted December 15, 2016, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I have confirmed that this is indeed a bowstring. I will post the KSHS link. It is probably either a King span or a Missouri Valley Bridge & Iron Works span.

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted December 14, 2016, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

When are you going to be near Geary County Nick?

I'm dying to know if this is indeed a bowstring and see pics of it!

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted December 18, 2012, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

Yup...Bridge looks to still be extant.

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted December 18, 2012, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Google Earth has new imagery for this region. It appears that this old Bowstring just might be extant.

Lyon Creek Bowstring Bridge
Posted October 2, 2009, by Robert Elder (robertelder1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Because this is a bowstring bridge, I would suspect that the ca. 1910 construction date is too late. "ca. 1910" appears to be a favorite default date for Kansas bridges that are probably much older.