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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
McGilvray Road Bridge #4
The Historic Truss Bridges Of The Van Loon Wildlife Area
New Amsterdam, WI

McGilvray Road Bridge #4

• Bridge Type: Steel Bowstring Arch Truss
• Length: 131 Feet Overall, 66 Foot Longest Span
• Width: 17 Feet
• Date Built: Built 1907, Restored 1991–1997
Bridge #4 is the third of three bridges that feature two spans. A large sandbar on the south side of the bridge allows for easy access to photograph the side of the bridge. Going off the trail is generally not recommended due to the swampy nature of the area and the presence of two species of pit vipers in the area, the Timber Rattler and the Massasauga. Leaving Bridge #4, the trail becomes more like a tunnel as the tree canopy covers the space above the trail.

A key feature of the Bowstring Arch Truss Bridge is the fasteners used to assemble the bridge. This includes pins, clips, and eyebars. These items can all be mass-produced in a factory, then rapidly assembled on location. This eliminates the need to custom fit parts and to do extensive riveting. The cross-beams connect to the main arch using clips that hang over the top end of the arch. The cross-beams then connect to the clips using pins. This works for beams in both tension and compression modes. All of these parts are accessible for inspection, and can be replaced in the field when the bridge requires maintenance.

The main channel bridge was deemed to be unsafe in 1948. Despite local efforts to preserve the bridge, it was demolished in 1954. A new bridge across the Black River was built for highway WI-93, so McGilvray Road was no longer needed for through traffic. The road did remain open for local landowners. A large flood in 1970 washed out the road in several places and damaged some of the bridges. The local township again attempted to maintain the road, but was again hampered by limited funds. The township deeded the land, road, and bridges to the State of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in 1975. The DNR wanted to keep the road open for pedestrians, but found that the damage was far too expensive to fix. Not only was the road impassible, but in 1986 a consultant deemed it both unsafe and a potential hazard. Funds were allocated to remove all but the first bridge, with the demolition planned for the summer of 1989.

The photo above is a view of Bridge #4 as one would approach the bridge while heading west on McGilvray Road. The road dips below the level of the bridge deck on each side of the bridge, likely due to past flood damage. As a result, the bridge appears to sit higher than the roadbed. A bench seat is located at the southeast corner of the bridge, a welcome place to rest for those who have hiked the three-fourths of a mile path to this bridge.


McGilvray Road Bridge #4
The photo above is looking west from the southeast corner of the structure. The photo below is looking east down the length of the bridge deck.

McGilvray Road Bridge #4
McGilvray Road Bridge #4
The photo above is looking north towards the eastern of the two spans that make up Bridge #4. The photo below is looking north towards the western of the two bridge spans. The side channel that flows under the bridges makes a sweeping turn to the south at this location, resulting in a large sandbar on the east side of the channel south of the bridges. This sandbar provides a nice profile view of Bridge #4.

McGilvray Road Bridge #4
McGilvray Road Bridge #4
The photo above is a detail view of the mid-channel pier of Bridge #4. This pier is built using a steel piling and reinforced concrete. These modern piers replaced the original 1907 wooden pilings. The photo below is the east bridge abutment. While wood is used to build the bridge abutment, the bridge actually sits on concrete piers.

McGilvray Road Bridge #4
McGilvray Road Bridge #4
The photo above is the view looking south from the deck of Bridge #4. The photo below is looking north from the deck of Bridge #4. This bridge crosses the largest of the side channels that flows through the river bottom area.

McGilvray Road Bridge #4
McGilvray Road Bridge #4
The photo above is a detail view of the end of the truss structure at the northwest corner of the bridge. The bridge would have originally rested on the wooden pilings that form the abutment. During the restoration, concrete bridge piers were installed just to the inside of the abutment. A vertical steel column was attached to the main truss member to support the truss on this pier. Smaller horizontal braces were welded between the new vertical support and the end of the main truss member. This shifts the weight of the structure off of the wooden abutment and onto a more stable set of piers.

The photo below is looking west down McGilvray Road towards Bridge #5, located 2,000 feet west of Bridge #4.


McGilvray Road Bridge #4

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