This mystery bridge article is in connection with the book project on the bridges along the Des Moines River, which actually starts here in Murray County, Minnesota. For more information on the project and how you can help contribute to the project, please click here for more details.
Bridge Type: Pratt half hip pony truss with riveted connections
Location: Des Moines River at Jeep Trail, 0.3 miles east of County Highway 42 at Sec. 21/28 Des Moines River Township
Construction Date: 1929
Located over the Des Moines River seven miles south of the village of Dovray and only 0.3 miles east of County Highway 42, this Jeep Trail bridge (known to Minnesota DOT as Bridge L-1602) may represent a typical truss bridge with little or no history on it, except from those living near it. Yet its uniqueness and the mystery makes it something worth researching and talking about. For instance, the bridge is a half-hip Pratt pony truss bridge, with a span of 49 feet. The bridge type itself was the only one used for the Des Moines River crossing as a single span, both in Minnesota as well as in Iowa. More unique is the fact that the connections are riveted. One can detect this by finding the gusset plates at the bottom chord at the second panel as well as the top chord at the outer panels, where the diagonal beams and end post meet. Normally one would find half hips with pinned connections, but as the bridge was built here in 1929, the riveted truss design represents a break from the state standardized truss designs that were introduced 15 years earlier, and the half hips were supposed to be phased out in favor of heavier pony trusses featuring (polygonal) Pratt and Warren designs.
But the question is did this bridge break this standard with its construction at Jeep Trail in 1929 or was this bridge built earlier- before the standardized trusses were introduced- and was relocated here? If the latter is true, then the next question is where this bridge originated from. The unfortunate part with this bridge was the fact that it was removed from service after 1990 with the road being vacated between County Hwy. 42 and County Hwy. 67. While returning home to Jackson from Marshall during my days in high school, my father and I crossed the bridge at 42 and the Jeep Trail Bridge was seen from a distance because of the flatness of the landscape and lack of trees. Yet when trying to find and photograph the bridge during my time in college in 1998, the bridge was not to be found. Furthermore, the road was fenced off. It is possible that because of the sparse usage of the road, and bridge that it was rendered useless by the county and was given to a local farmer for use. Had that bridge remained opened, there would have been a chance to inspect the bridge to see which of the two arguments would stand out as true: being brought in in 1929 or being originally built in 1929. Lastly, regardless of which one was true, the last question is who was responsible for the construction of the bridge.
Now it’s the local’s turn. What do you know about the bridge and its history? Any information? Send it over to Jason Smith at the Chronicles, using the contact details here. The bridge will be included in the book on the bridges along the Des Moines River and therefore, any information on its history will be useful for the reader. Any stories and facts about it will be much appreciated. In the meantime, enjoy the photos of the bridge in hopes that some memories will be kindled and people with some facts will step forward to talk about it. 🙂
All photos are courtesy of Minnesota DOT, whom the author thanks for the usage for the article and the book project.
Quick Note: The bridge is located 11 miles east of Slayton, the county seat of Murray County, and 9 miles east of Avoca. It is located approximately 13 river miles southeast of Lake Shetek, the source of the river.