County Rd. / Pike River

County Rd. / Pike River

County: Houghton

City/Township: Chassell

Location: County Rd. / Pike River

Year Built: 1914

About this Bridge:
Located in Chassell Township, this small-scale concrete/steel bridge spans the Pike River on County Road C117. The crossing is situated immediately south of the village of Chassell, near the river’s mouth at Pike Bay. The structure is configured as a 38-foot, steel stringer span, with five lines of rolled I-beams supported simply by concrete abutments. Architectural expression is provided by MSHD standard paneled concrete guardrails. Cast into the guardrails are “State Trunk Line Bridge 1914" on one side and “Built by S-B-S Co Houghton” on the other. In unaltered and excellent structural condition, the Pike River Bridge has retained a high degree of physical integrity.

Soon after the legislature passed the State Trunk Line Act in 1913, authorizing the formation of a trunk line system of roads, a north-south route across the western end of the Upper Peninsula began to coalesce. Designated across Keweenaw, Houghton, Ontonagon and Gogebic counties, it linked the major east-west trunk line across Peninsula with the Peninsula’s extreme northern tip at the Keweenaw Peninsula. By 1915 the route was virtually complete. Two of the bridges built with the initial construction of the trunk line were identical concrete/steel structures over the Pike and Snake rivers near Chassell. For these crossings, the Michigan State Highway Department delineated 38-foot steel stringer structures, designating the Trunk Line Bridges Nos. 8 and 9, respectively. In 1913 MSHD awarded the contract to build the two bridges to the Smith-Byers-Sparks Company. The Houghton-based contractors used steel stringers fabricated by the Jarvis Engine and Machine Works of Lansing to complete them in 1914. The trunk line route was incorporated into US-41 in the 1920s. The Snake River Bridge was later replaced in 1934 but the Pike River Bridge has been bypassed by the highway. It now carries local traffic in essentially unaltered condition.

The steel stringer configuration of the Pike River Bridge was one of the earliest standard designs developed by the state highway department. First delineated in the 1905-1906 biennium, it used relatively shallow I-beams in a relatively short-span configuration. The department used steel stringer bridges intermittently in the 1910s depending largely upon the price and availability of rolled I-beams. The Pike River Bridge is distinguished as one of the first trunk line bridges to use the steel stringer configuration. Of the 22 trunk line bridges listed in MSHD’s 1913-1914 biennial report, almost half are stringer bridges. All but the Pike River Bridge have subsequently been demolished or altered. This bridge is this significant for its representation of this important structural type, and it is important as an early, unaltered remnant of the upper Peninsula’s trunk line system.