Barstow Bridge (Stevens and Ferry counties)

  • By Ann Sharley and Stephen B. Emerson
  • Posted 4/13/2009
  • Essay 8983
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The Barstow Bridge, a surplus military bridge, was placed across the Kettle River in 1947, after floods damaged several earlier bridges. The bridge is located in Northeast Washington on the border between Stevens and Ferry counties, not far from the Canadian border. Since it was a bit short in length, an additional structure was added on to enable it to span the river. After more than 60 years in service, the Barstow Bridge is scheduled to be removed in 2010. It has been put up for sale. If a willing buyer is not found, the bridge will be demolished. The Barstow Bridge was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.


The community of Barstow was established around 1902, a minor stop on the Washington and Great Northern rail line. The name of the town recalls a Mr. Barstow, the contractor who supervised construction of the railroad through the area in 1901.  In 1903 marble was discovered on Rattlesnake Mountain, east of the Kettle River, and the Kettle River Marble Company petitioned the county for a bridge to facilitate transport of the stone to the Barstow railroad siding.

With continued urging by company officials and local homesteaders, the Barstow wagon bridge and connecting roads became a reality in 1906. That same year, a post office, store, sawmill, and planing mill were built at Barstow, although the bulk of the local population remained resident on scattered homesteads in the nearby hills.

The Barstow Bridge

The Barstow Bridge is a one-lane structure composed of two sections. On the east side the structure is a 125-foot-long prefabricated-steel Pratt pony truss span. A pony truss is a through truss (traffic travels between the supporting structures) with no overhead bracing. A Pratt truss has an N-shaped configuration that was designed by Thomas and Caleb Pratt in 1844. The west section of the bridge is a 58-foot-long steel deck beam span with wood plank balustrades.

The east end of the bridge rests on a poured-in-place concrete abutment remaining from the previous bridge. The west end is supported by an earth-filled steel abutment held in place with a series of H bearing piles.  The H bearing pile is a particular configuration of a "bearing pile," a pile that supports the pier by being driven to bear down on a hard strata below.

A large steel pier composed of braced H-bearing piles and steel plates supports the juncture of the two bridge spans. Both bridge sections have wood plank decks with plank-reinforced vehicle tracks, although deck construction in the two areas differs.  


Historical maps place the original Barstow river crossing in the SW¼ of Section 17, T38N, R37E, approximately one mile northwest of the present Barstow Bridge. Seasonal flooding of the Kettle River, however, repeatedly damaged the structure and, around 1920, the Barstow Bridge was rebuilt a mile downstream, in its present location.  In 1947, after disastrous flooding rendered the Barstow Bridge unusable, Stevens and Ferry counties purchased a military surplus prefabricated steel railroad bridge and installed it at the same location, extending its length to the west with a wood and steel span.  

The Pratt truss section of the bridge is a prefabricated World War II railroad bridge, designed for rapid replacement of war-damaged bridges in Europe.  Following the war, surplus bridges were made available to local governments at minimal cost.  In 1947 Stevens and Ferry counties purchased one of the prefabricated bridges, arranged shipment of the structure from New York, and hired a contractor to install the bridge at Barstow and construct the necessary additional span, for a total cost of $44,818.58 .

The bridge is currently (2009) in need of maintenance, and its 16-foot width is a limiting factor.  Although situated in a rather remote location, Barstow Bridge presently sees a surprising volume of traffic.

The community of Barstow thrived for a time, but the region was rugged and remote, with limited agricultural land. The nearby marble quarry operated only sporadically and no productive metal mines were located in the area.  Logging and lumbering initially supported the Barstow economy but in time these industries, also, went into decline.  Today little is left of the town of Barstow.  The Barstow Bridge crossing, however, is still a valued transportation link for local residents.

Sources: Bureau of Soils, Soil Map, Washington, Stevens County Sheet (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Soils, 1913);  “The New Barstow Bridge,” Colville Examiner, March 15, 1947, p. 1; George F. Cram Company, Map of Washington, (Chicago: George F. Cram Company, 1904), available at Washington State University  Early Washington Maps digital collection website  (; Craig Holstine and Richard Hobbs, Spanning Washington: Historic Highway Bridges of the Evergreen State (Pullman: Washington State University Press, 2005); Clair Hunt, Clair Hunt’s Homesteader’s Map of the Entire North Half of the Colville Indian Reservation (Bossburg, Washington: Clair Hunt, 1900); Robert H. Krier, J. Byron Barber, Robin Bruce, and Craig Holstine, National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Barstow Bridge (Eastern Washington University, Cheney: Archaeological and Historical Services, 1991); Robert H. Krier, Craig Holstine, Robin Bruce, and J. Byron Barber, Inventory, Evaluation, and National Register of Historic Places Nomination of Bridges in Washington State, 1941-1950: A Project Summary, Short Report DOT 92-9 (Eastern Washington University, Cheney: Archaeological and Historical Services, 1992); Ruth Lakin, Kettle River Country: Early Days along the Kettle River (Colville: Statesman-Examiner, Inc.,1976); Railroad Commission of Washington (RCW), Railroad Stations in Washington (Railroad Commission of Washington, 1907); U.S. Forest Service, Colville National Forest, Washington (Washington, D.C: Pacific Northwest Region, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1917); U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Marcus, Washington (topographic map), (Washington, D.C: U.S. Geological Survey, 1942); Washington Department of Highways, General Highway and Transportation Maps (Olympia: Washington Department of Highways, 1936).

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