Visitor's Guide to Historic Bridge Park
Located in Calhoun County, Michigan, southeast of Battle Creek, the park is open year-round from 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM. Entry to the park is free of charge.
Guide produced by HistoricBridges.org. More information on the park: www.historicbridges.org/info/bridgepark
Coordinates for the entrance to the park are 42.292119,-85.114802. Enter those coordinates into your GPS system to get directions.
Driving on I-94 Westbound, take Exit 104 which is 11 Mile Road. Do not turn at the first intersection, and instead go straight. The short road will end at Michigan Avenue (M-96). Turn Right (west). Follow Michigan
Avenue (M-96) west until you reach Wattles Road (has a stoplight) and turn left (south). Follow Wattles Road, cross the railroad tracks and turn left at the drive with the Historic Bridge Park sign.
Alternate Route from Westbound I-94: Driving on I-94 Westbound, take Exit 104 which is 11 Mile Road. Turn left (south) from the off ramp to proceed south on 11 Mile Road. Drive on 11 Mile Road for 3/4 mile, going straight past Michigan Avenue (I-94 BL / M-96) and turn right (west) onto F Drive North. Follow the road until it ends. Turn left (south) onto Wattles Road, cross the railroad tracks and look and turn left (south) again at the drive with the Historic Bridge Park sign. Note: F Drive North was hit hard by the winter of 2013-2014 and as of 2014 was filled with many potholes.
Driving on Eastbound I-94, take Exit 100 which is Beadle Lake Road. Turn right (south) onto Beadle Lake Road and then take an immediate left (east) onto E Drive North. Follow E Drive North until it ends at 9 Mile Road (Wattles Road) and then turn left (north). Drive under I-94 and over the Kalamazoo River and then turn right (south) onto the drive with the the Historic Bridge Park sign.
Alternate Routes from Eastbound I-94: Take Exit 104, and Turn Left onto 11 Mile Road. Then, turn right onto Michigan Avenue (M-96). Follow Michigan Avenue (M-96) west until you reach Wattles Road (has a stoplight) and turn left (south). Follow Wattles Road, cross the railroad tracks and turn left at the drive with the Historic Bridge Park sign. Alternatively, instead of turning right onto Michigan Avenue, you can also stay straight on 11 Mile Road for 3/4 mile, going straight past Michigan Avenue (I-94 BL / M-96) and turn right (west) onto F Drive North. Follow the road until it ends. Turn left (south) onto Wattles Road, cross the railroad tracks and look and turn left (south) again at the drive with the Historic Bridge Park sign. Note: F Drive North was hit hard by the winter of 2013-2014 and as of 2014 was filled with many potholes.
The official address for the park (which does not often work on maps and GPS systems) is as follows:
14930 9 Mile Road
Emmett Township, MI 49014
The map below outlines the approximate layout of the park.
Bridge Type: Four panel half-hip Pratt pony
truss with pinned connections.
Construction Date: 1897
Builder: Michigan Bridge Company of Portland, Michigan
Length: 64 Feet (19.5 Meters) Roadway Width: 14 Feet (4.3 Meters)
Original Crossing: Rabbit River in Allegan County, MI
Significance: First bridge to be erected in the park. An excellent representative example of a once-common truss type that is gradually becoming rare. A rare documented example of the Michigan-based bridge company's work. Half-hip pony truss bridges do not have a hip vertical running from the top chord / end post to the bottom chord and were common for short pony truss spans (under 80 feet).
Restoration Notes: Erected here in 1999, this was the first bridge placed in the park. Since the in-kind restoration processes being used at the park were essentially the first in the nation, this small, manageable truss was selected as the first bridge. The successful restoration of this bridge opened the doorway to this new and better form of historic metal bridge restoration.
Bridge Type: Five panel full-slope Pratt pony truss
with riveted connections.
Construction Date: 1907
Length: 70 Feet (21 Meters) Roadway Width: 15.4 Feet (4.69 Meters)
Original Crossing: St. Joseph River in Calhoun County, MI
Significance: Second bridge placed in the park. Riveted connections on a Pratt truss are uncommon in Michigan but common in other states. Only bridge in the park with riveted connections. Rumored to have originally been a railroad bridge, but this is not backed up by any substantial facts/research.
Restoration Notes: This bridge was in very poor shape prior to restoration. Numerous parts on the bridge had to be removed and replicated. However because replaced parts were replicated as dictated in an in-kind restoration, these replacements are not readily visible to the casual visitor.
Bridge Type: Seven panel Pratt through
truss with pinned connections.
Construction Date: 1897
Length: 122 Feet (37 Meters) Roadway Width: 14 Feet (4.3 Meters)
Original Crossing: Grand River in Ingham County, MI
Significance: This is the last remaining Pratt through truss highway bridge in Michigan that is skewed. Skewed pin-connected truss bridges are uncommon anywhere.
Restoration Notes: Third bridge placed in the park. Engineering analysis of this bridge found that the original portal bracing lacked appropriate strength. New portal bracing was created for the bridge which replicates the original design with the exception that the lattice is composed of angles instead of bars which increased the strength of the bracing.
Bridge Type: Six panel Pratt
through truss with pinned connections.
Construction Date: 1880
Builder: Penn Bridge Company of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania
Length: 90 Feet (27 Meters) Roadway Width: 16 Feet (4.88 Meters)
Original Crossing: Looking Glass River in Clinton County, MI
Significance: Fourth bridge placed in the park. Contains the distinctive and unusual details of its builder including a continuous eyebar on the first two panels at each end of the bridge, two pins at the top chord and end post intersection on the bridge. The overhanging endpost is also an uncommon feature that appears on older Penn Bridge Company Bridges. Lightweight members are a testimony to the bridge's age. This is one of the oldest truss bridges in Michigan and the only example of this builder's work in Michigan.
Restoration Notes: Parts from another nearly identical and badly deteriorated bridge on Tallman Road were used to replace deteriorated parts on this Bauer Road Bridge. Oversize lattice railings were placed on this bridge for safety reasons. Now located away from the corrosive effects of deicing salt, this bridge was not painted because it is wrought iron and will not deteriorate like steel would. Leaving paint off the bridge allows park visitors to view this bridge in the form it has been for decades and also reduced costs.
Bridge Type: Eleven
panel Whipple through truss with pinned connections.
Construction Date: 1886
Length: 173 Feet (52.7 Meters). Roadway Width: 14.4 Feet (4.4 Meters)
Builder: Buckeye Bridge Works of Cleveland, Ohio: H.P. Hepburn Engineer and Contractor
Significance: One of only three Whipple truss bridges in Michigan. Rare example of a bridge built by Buckeye Bridge Works. One of the longest pin-connected trapezoidal truss spans in Michigan. Punched match marks for testing the tensile strength of forge welds at the center of the longest eyebars on the bridge remain in place: Look for the two dimples about two feet apart from each other on the side of the eyebars.
Restoration Notes: Fifth bridge placed in the park. Because the original floorbeams had severe section loss, exact replicas of the attractive and noteworthy built-up fishtail/fishbelly style floorbeams were created. Modern railings on bridge were placed for safety reasons, but an attractive and low visibility design was selected to minimize any adverse visual impact.
Semicircular stone arch bridge widened on one side with
Construction Date: 1891
Builder: Michigan Central Railroad
Significance: This unique two-span arch bridge sits in its original location, crossing Dickinson Creek with a small arch span and the trail, which was once F Drive North, with a larger stone arch span. The bridge is unusual for Michigan because it crosses both the creek and the roadway in a single bridge, and also for the arch spans of differing size.
Restoration Notes: This bridge is in its original location and no work has been done on the bridge as part of park operations aside from paving the trail that runs under the bridge. The bridge continues to carries Amtrak and Norfolk Southern trains.
It is hard not to notice the close proximity of I-94 to the park. The I-94 bridges over Kalamazoo River visible from the park's picnic area are curved t-beams constructed in 1960. Curved t-beams were an attractive design used in the 1950s and 1960s in a number of states. In Michigan, the curved t-beams were particularly attractive because in addition to their graceful curves, they were complimented with Michigan's unique R4 type railings which were used from approximately 1932 through the 1960s. Although the original railings have been lost, the attractive arch-shaped beams remain below. While on the subject of I-94, the F Drive North over I-94 and the railroad overpass next to it are both somewhat old examples of expressway bridge construction. A fair number of examples of Michigan's curved t-beam overpasses that still have original railings on them can be found, particularly on I-94 between Marshall and Jackson and I-94 between Kalamazoo and New Buffalo. None of these bridges are currently considered officially historic, however those examples which retain original railings do offer a unique look at a period in history where expressway overpasses were made to look attractive.
Guide Produced June 10, 2010 By www.historicbridges.org. All rights reserved.