Blue Bridge at Indian Creek Nature Center

Blue Bridge Arrives!

Historic Bridge Finds New Home at ICNC

Preserving Local History

The Blue Bridge where Bertram Road crosses Indian Creek
The Bertram Road Bridge, pictured over Indian Creek where it stood for 146 years, is now starting a second life at Indian Creek Nature Center.

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 

Aerial shot of Blue Bridge at ICNC
The “Blue Bridge” will be a welcome addition to the ICNC 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

Blur Bridge on semi trailer
The Blue Bridge was delivered to its new home via a semi trailer where a crane then lifted it and placed it on a prepared substructure.

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. 

Celebrating the Bridge’s New Life

Since the Blue Bridge arrived in September of 2023, much work has been done to prepare the bridge for visitors and it is now ready! Linn County crews repainted the repaired metal, re-assembled the deck, added safety guardrails, and built approaches to each end. The ICNC land team has laid mulch on the connecting trails and have begun work to replant prairie along the new trails.

Indian Creek Nature Center and Linn County are hosting a Blue Bridge Opening Ceremony on Friday, May 10th at 3:00 P.M. The community is invited to join us for this historic occasion. If you’d like to come please RSVP.

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