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Nature Trail - Wea Creek Bridge

Wea Creek bridge at western trailhead

Located at the southwest section of the trail, the Wea Creek bridge is one of the most interesting physical features of the Kansas Historical Society's Nature Trail in Topeka. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the bridge offers visitors an opportunity to cross on foot as part of their walk along the trail.

Built in 1870, the bridge originally was three times longer than it is today, and was named the Bull Creek bridge because it was first located at the Osawatomie crossing of Bull Creek, south of Paola, Kansas. The Bull Creek bridge was built to replace a previous structure that had washed out in a flood in 1869. Referred to as a Bowstring Arch Truss, this type of bridge was first patented in 1840. It consists of two arches springing from and disposed between two abutments. Tension members hang from the arches and support the roadway below.

Installed over Bull Creek in 1870, the bridge served that location until 1903. As was common during the period, whenever increasing loads required a new bridge, the older one was relocated to a site where a lighter bridge would suffice. This happened to the Bull Creek bridge in 1903. The three spans of the bridge were disconnected and moved to various locations in Miami County. One span was placed at Bryan Ford over Middle Creek, south of Beagle. Another was placed at David Ford over Middle Creek, east of Jingo. The final span, and the bridge that is part of the nature trail in Topeka, was located at Whitaker Ford on Wea Creek, three miles west and two miles north of Louisburg. Today the bridge retains the name of its most recent location.

Download Nature Trail map (pdf)

The Kansas Historical Society became involved in 1983 when plans called for the bridge's removal. A review of bridge studies in other states revealed that the Wea Creek bridge likely was the only remaining example of a Bowstring Arch Truss still in use. The bridge is 13 feet wide and 69 feet long, and careful planning was required to move it to Topeka. The adjutant general's office and the 891st Engineer Battalion from Iola assisted on-site and with traffic control. Robert Creason of Kansas City Cartage donated the use of a tractor, trailer, and driver, as well as the company's vast experience in large-scale moving. The Kansas Department of Transportation was involved in survey work at the proposed site and in drafting plans for the donated engineering assistance for the project. Lardner Stone of Topeka donated the limestone needed to face the concrete abutments. The size, texture, and color of the stones closely match those of the original. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company donated 50 railroad ties to act as temporary cribbing for the bridge once it was delivered to Topeka.

The Wea Creek bridge was moved to the Kansas Historical Society headquarters in 1988 and was placed across the creek on the western edge of the grounds in 1989.

Activity Guide

An activity guide to use on the trail is available.

Nature Trail
Open daily sunrise to sunset
6425 SW 6th Avenue
Topeka, KS 66615-1099
785-272-8681
TTY 785-272-8683