Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2018

Tracks and Tales: Kewash Nature Trail Bridge repairs being scheduled

By Steve Anderson

The railroads came to Washington County in the latter 1800’s, peaked in the early 1900’s, and have since lost some of their transportation niche.  A small portion of those railroads avoided abandonment by becoming public use trails.  One of those is the 14 miles we now call the Kewash Nature Trail.  Its only bridge crosses Crooked Creek.  How well it this 150+ year old structure has stood the test of time never ceases to amaze me!
Just one example of the amazing design of this bridge is how it handles high water events (plenty of times over the past few years).  The normal flow goes under a completely open span created with large concrete pillars at each end.  This serves many functions very well, not the least of which is to lessen the likelihood of debris getting wedged there.  
As Crooked Creek rises during floods, the water flows under another span of the bridge held up by a series of large wooden pilings.  This greatly lessens the restriction of stream flow that the railroad grade creates.  This added bridge span has been adequate to handle every flood that has plagued Washington County except one during the WCCB’s years of management.  At that point, the railroad itself actually “blew out” at a designed location some distance east of the actual structure, effectively saving the bridge itself from damage.
As amazing as this bridge is, there are a couple of points of needed maintenance that we are preparing to deal with.  The first will be to replace the upper sections of the retaining wall at each end of the bridge.  These were constructed out of bridge planking against the pilings.  It took all of these years, but they have now rotted and there is a void that allows the dirt to slough out of there (often aided by rodents).  In the next few weeks our staff will be replacing these planks, and also taking that opportunity to pour short concrete approaches at each end.
The second maintenance item is to replace a couple of the wooden pilings supporting the west end of the bridge.  We are blessed to have Iowa Bridge & Culvert in Washington County.  They have given us an awesome quote, and we are excited to get this done!
Both projects will require that the bridge be closed for purposes of public safety and to allow crews to work.  We will post the Kewash Nature Trail at the time of the closings, and barricade the actual construction sites for purposes of safety and to allow efficient working.  We regret the inconvenience this will create, but are confident that you will support us on these improvements needed to assure the Kewash Nature Trail Bridge over Crooked Creek will continue to serve you for years to come!