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Bellefountain Bridge

Iowa Bridge Number 34955


Bellefountain Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: July 2, 2009
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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
Jefferson Street Over Des Moines River
Near Tracy: Mahaska County, Iowa
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1898 By Builder/Contractor: Clinton Bridge and Iron Works of Clinton, Iowa

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
Not Available or Not Applicable
Main Span Length
145 Feet (44.2 Meters)
Structure Length
595.2 Feet (181.4 Meters)
Roadway Width
16.1 Feet (4.9 Meters)
6 Main Span(s)
NBI Number

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

There are several extremely rare and significant pin-connected truss bridges on the lower section of the Des Moines River. Each are distinguished as rare surviving examples of large, multi-span examples of their type. The Bellefountain Bridge is one such example. Most of the surviving Des Moines River pin-connected truss bridges in this region remain inaccessible due to flooding and deck damage. The Bellefountain Bridge is one of those bridges. The bridge has four nine panel truss spans, which are traditionally composed. The trusses feature a-frame portal bracing which is repeated in an identical layout in the sway bracing, which is uncommon since normally the sway bracing design is different from the portal bracing on pin-connected Pratt truss bridges. This bridge's wooden deck surface has been "shattered" by a combination of violent floods and deterioration. Many planks remain on the deck, but they are strewn all over the deck randomly. It is still possible to walk out on a portion of the bridge because someone has installed planks to access some sort of monitoring box mounted on the bridge.

Information and Findings From Iowa's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

Like many bridges across major rivers, the Bellefountain Bridge was preceded for rears by a ferry operation. Located at the small town of Bellefountain along the Des Moines River in western Mahaska County, this multiple span truss was erected here in 1898. That year, after granting licenses for the ferry for decades, the Mahaska County Board of Supervisors finally agreed to build a permanent bridge at this point. In May the county solicited competitive bides for the bridge's fabrication ad erection. Attracted by the sizable profits for such a large scale project, virtually all of the major bridge firms in the region submitted bids in June. Low bidder at $9,750, Clinton Bridge and Iron Works won the contract.

The Clinton, Iowa, firm built the four pinned Pratt trusses on large-diameter steel cylinder piers that year. The Bellefountain Bridge carried mainline traffic without alteration for three decades until its replacement in 1930 with another truss a half-mile upstream. The 1898 bridge continued to serve local traffic, but eventually, without maintenance, it was closed. Today most of the timber floor system has rotted away, and the bridge has been allowed to molder in place by the county. The Bellefountain Bridge is distinguished among the remaining Pratt through trusses by relatively early construction date and multiplicity of relatively long spans [adapted from Fraser 1992].

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes

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Photos and Videos: Bellefountain Bridge

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