Bridge 14-088-170

Clay Creek Ditch Bridge, c.1890

Not far from where I live is an intriguing old bridge I found by chance while searching for old cemetery information within the county I live. It’s but a 4 minute drive from my home up here on the hilltop and I can view it below when the winds blow the Fall leaves from branches and the tall grasses fade and lay down with the first cold snap of the season. I load up the dogs and drive down the worn dirt path to this old relic, it offers them as well as me, a place to explore without the concerns of modern traffic.

The first time I stood on it, I was curious as to why the bridge, which is tall and wide, would be constructed over a creek of this size. Clay Creek Ditch runs from the north watershed of our county and joins the Vermillion River which empties into the great Missouri River, about 8 miles south of here. This native creek was enhanced in depth with the use of mechanical ditch digging equipment many year ago to handle the run off from farm fields that had been tiled for drainage. I would guess the creek to be 30 ft. wide by 12 ft. high from the top of the water to ground level above. I have a fondness for research and wanting to know history and reason for things, and soon I was looking online for answers.

The bridge was built by King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio in 1890. It now is placed on the National Register of Historic Places as of January 14, 2000. At one time a unique plaque was welded to the bridge along with the manufactures bridge identifier but it’s since been destroyed by vandals. It is a timbered deck bridge with some of thickest wood planks I’ve ever seen. They have grayed with age and use but probably are not original to the bridge. The metal trusses were shipped by train to Vermillion from Ohio to be erected over the Vermillion River in the late 1800’s when our little town was being settled. This bridge was well used in it’s time for allowing traffic to cross the river to other parts of South Dakota. Time changes roads and means of transportation and eventually the bridge was moved to where it now rests today. There is an immense section of river bottom farm land below us and the creek prohibited farmers getting to their fields for work without going a long round about way. It was proposed and passed by county vote that the bridge be moved to County Road 314 to span the Clay Creek Ditch in 1980. It is only used by farmers now to get their machinery into the fields but frequently we have those who come to shoot guns, set off fireworks and trap along the creek sides.

I think to myself how wonderful to have been able to witnessed partial disassembling of the bridge, the transport to the area in need and then reassembled once again. A new purpose in the life of Bridge 14-088-170.