Historic Bridge Finds New Home at ICNC
Preserving Local History
A few years ago, when Linn County began plans to replace the historic Bertram Road Bridge, the staff at Indian Creek Nature Center began working to bring the bridge to our trail system. This fall, staff watched with a sense of pride and awe as a semi-trailer guided by a construction crew delivered the bridge to its new home on Indian Creek Nature Center’s trail system.
Establishing the bridge as part of our trail system aligns with our mission in multiple ways. Keeping the bridge’s materials out of a landfill and repurposing the bridge demonstrates to the community how, with some added effort, we can eliminate waste and instead turn the old into something new, useful and even beautiful. In addition to reusing these materials, the bridge will also complement our existing trail system. Preserving the “Blue Bridge,” as it became known locally after being repainted in 1991, allows Indian Creek Nature Center to honor the history of the neighborhood we’ve been blessed to be a part of since 1973.
Built in 1876 by the Wrought Iron Bridge Company, the Bertram Road Bridge served local vehicle traffic for 146 years. The bridge did have some work done over the years. The timber approach spans were reconstructed in 1987, and the timber deck was replaced five times during the bridge’s lifespan. The timber from the road bridge is also being repurposed on the bridge that now rests on the Indian Creek Nature Center grounds.
Enhancing the Trail System
Looking to the east from our parking lot, visitors can now see the bright blue of the bridge’s painted steel peeking out from the tree line. The pop of color adds to the already majestic fall colors that make our trails beautiful this time of year. Beyond its obvious photogenic qualities, the bridge will connect our trails in new ways.
The bridge will connect the northeast corner of the Stimple Prairie and the northwest corner of the Cedar Rapids Prairie. This will increase access to the Cedar Rapids Prairie and the Cedar Overlook Trail, which connects the Cedar Rapids Prairie to the Woodland Trail and Hazelnut Hideaway. Improving our trail system is an ongoing goal at Indian Creek Nature Center. We’re grateful for the partnership with Linn County that brought the bridge to its new home.
How the Bridge Got Here
Moving a 146-year-old bridge is harder than it sounds. Thanks to the hard work of engineers and construction workers, the bridge was able to find its new home despite setbacks. The original date for delivery was April 3, 2023, but the bridge collapsed during the first attempt to move it. The disappointment felt in the community slowly transformed to cautious optimism as structural engineers began working to find ways to strengthen the bridge so that it could still find a new home.
Over the summer, parts of the bridge were removed or welded to improve the bridge’s ability to be lifted by a crane onto a truck, driven nearly one mile, and then lifted by crane and placed on a prepared substructure. Finally, on the morning of September 26, 2023, crews successfully delivered the bridge to its new home at Indian Creek Nature Center.
After the bridge’s arrival the work was not done. Crews have been reassembling the parts of the bridge that were detached before transporting the bridge. ICNC staff have begun clearing the connecting trails that will lead up to the approach on each end of the bridge.
While the work to prepare the bridge for hikers is still being done, the “Blue Bridge” will soon be open to the public. Once it’s ready, we encourage all nature lovers to visit this fall and cross the newest addition to our trail system during their hike.