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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
McGilvray Road Bridge #1
The Historic Truss Bridges Of The Van Loon Wildlife Area
New Amsterdam, WI

McGilvray Road Bridge #1

• Bridge Type: Steel Bowstring Arch Truss
• Length: 134 Feet Overall, 67 Foot Longest Span
• Width: 17 Feet
• Date Built: Built 1906, Restored 1991–1998
Bridge #1 is one of three bridges on McGilvray Road that feature two spans. The others are Bridge #2 and Bridge #4. All three of these bridges are about the same length, with spans ranging from 66 to 71 feet long. The bridge is located very close to the parking lot for the Van Loon Wildlife Area, so it is easily accessible, even for those with limited mobility.

The Bowstring Arch Truss style of bridge was invented by Charles Horton, who received a patent on this design in 1897. Horton licensed his design in 1900 to the La Crosse Bridge And Steel Company, who manufactured six such bridges for McGilvray Road between 1905 and 1908.

Alexander McGilvray immigrated to Wisconsin from Scotland. He established a ferry service across the Black River near the village of New Amsterdam in March of 1854. The ferry provided access to the northwestern part of Wisconsin for settlers and commerce centered on the riverboat landing and industry around La Crosse. The east approach to the ferry was reached by slogging through two miles of rattlesnake infested swamps and side channels along the Black River that was to become known as McGilvray Bottoms. The ferry used a succession of boats, starting with a converted wagon, and later using purpose-built flat-bottomed boats. The ferry operated by running along a rope, which was later replaced by a cable made out of seven-eights inch diameter steel rods connected end to end. The ferry business boomed after McGilvray established an Inn and settlers began to pour into the area.

The photo above is a view of Bridge #1 as one would approach the bridge while heading west on McGilvray Road.


McGilvray Road Bridge #1
The photo above is looking west down the length of the deck of Bridge #1. The photo below is looking east down the length of the deck of Bridge #1. The parking lot is located 350 feet east of the east end of the bridge up a small incline and to the left.

McGilvray Road Bridge #1
McGilvray Road Bridge #1
The photo above is looking south from Bridge #1. The photo below is looking north from Bridge #1. This channel is one of the larger back channels to flow through the river bottom area. Since 2009 has been a dry year, the water flow is minimal.

McGilvray Road Bridge #1
McGilvray Road Bridge #1
The photo above is looking north towards the upriver side of the eastern of the two bridges spans that make up Bridge #1. The photo below is looking west along McGilvray Road towards Bridge #2, located 640 feet west of Bridge #1.

McGilvray Road Bridge #1

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