6 votes

Rocky Fork Bridge


Photo taken by Don O'Brien in April 2007


BH Photo #145717



The bridge, which is abandoned and has no deck, is located off of a dead-end road in a rural setting. There are cultivated fields to the south of the bridge. The property to the north of the bridge is wooded.

The single span, bowstring truss bridge is approximately 75' long and is 11' wide. It has a tubular arch built-up from channel sections. The lower chords are bars with bolted splices. The verticals alternate between bars with a cross-shaped section (star bars) and built-up, tapered, lattice members. The web diagonals are wrought-iron bars. The rolled floorbeams rest atop the lower chords and are held in place by bolts. The floorbeams are much wider than the bridge and extend beyond the lower chords. At the bearings, the lower chord and upper chord are received by a cast-iron connecting piece. The bridge is supported on concrete abutments.

The bridge is a classic example of the Wrought Iron Bridge Company's patented tubular bowstring truss. It is one of seven identified examples in the Ohio inventory (June 2009). Bowstring trusses are characterized by arched top chords and a trussed or lattice web. They rank among the rarest and most technologically significant of 19th-century metal truss designs since they appeared early in the evolution of iron bridge development and were almost always based on the patents or proprietary designs of bridge builders and engineers. The progenitor of the form was the famed engineer Squire Whipple of New York, who built the first example in 1840 over the Erie Canal at Utica. After the Civil War, Ohio was a center for the development of the bowstring with its concentration of metal bridge-building companies. Companies such Wrought Iron Bridge, Champion Bridge, Massillon Bridge, and King Iron Bridge built their reputations on successful bowstring designs with a dizzying number of variant ways of forming and connecting the truss members. The companies emerged in time to fill the burgeoning demand for an economical, prefabricated bridge for use on American roads. Bowstring trusses thus document this exceptionally inventive and technologically significant period in the development of American metal trusses from the 1860s to early 1880s. The ODOT inventory has identified 22 surviving examples dating from ca. 1864 to 1880 (Phase 1A, 2008).

The bridge is one of the 22 extant bowstring truss bridges that survive in the state. Having so many is remarkable, and even though they are "common" based on their numbers, each is an important and irreplaceable record of the development of the metal truss bridge and the ingenuity associated with the Ohio industrial development. The bridge has high [historic] significance.

The abutment at the southwest corner is spalling and deteriorated with loss of bearing area. This needs to be addressed before the bridge collapses (June 2009). For more historical info, see HAER OH-96. [No]

Extra width of floorbeams is suggestive that this bridge was relocated here and narrowed. The truss lines have excellent integrity of original design. This is a gem.


Abandoned bowstring pony truss bridge over Ohio Brush Creek
Highland County, Ohio
Built ca.1872
- Wrought Iron Bridge Co. of Canton, Ohio
Wrought iron tubular Bowstring pony truss
Total length: 75.0 ft.
Deck width: 11.0 ft.
Approximate latitude, longitude
+39.04915, -83.49198   (decimal degrees)
39°02'57" N, 83°29'31" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
17/284350/4325186 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Sinking Spring
Inventory numbers
ODOT 36XXXX1 (Ohio Dept. of Transportation structure file number)
BH 43253 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • June 2, 2014: Updated by Nathan Holth: Fixed GPS.
  • February 19, 2010: Updated by Anthony Dillon: Added GPS coordinates
  • August 29, 2009: New photos from Don O'Brien
  • August 19, 2009: Added by Anthony Dillon



Rocky Fork Bridge
Posted June 29, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

I am headed back to Iowa via close to this little gem. I might check it out. The golf course might want an approach to their WBCO if that deal goes through. Looks like about 60' but doesn't say. What do you think for length.

Rocky Fork Bridge
Posted June 29, 2013, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

A couple of of years ago, the mayor of an Ohio town was looking for a bridge to relocate to his town. They already had one bowstring bridge and was looking for another. This bridge came up as being the right size and I suggested he contact Highland County and see what was going on with this span. Never did hear what the outcome was, but since it is still there I will assume nothing came of it.

A Nice little bowstring that needs a good home for sure!

Rocky Fork Bridge
Posted June 29, 2013, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Start with your county. They probably have records dating back to 1872 about how and why the bridge was put up there. It is a stunning bridge. How fun to be have that for a view from your kitchen.

I adore bowstrings and pony trusses are manageable in terms of scope of work and restoration costs.

Just my two cents.


Rocky Fork Bridge
Posted June 29, 2013, by Joan Dillon (Joaniesgarden [at] live [dot] com)

How would I find the history of this bridge? Why it was built? For whom? Was it still owned by the military or under an ownership deed? I can see this bridge from my kitchen window and I always wondered why it was abandoned?

What concerns me is the soil erosion over the years is receding the banks of Brush creek and I'm afraid it may eat into the foundation of the bridge and we'll lose it altogether?