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Mottville Camelback Bridge - St. Joseph County, Michigan


Located in Mottville, Michigan, the Mottville Camelback Bridge spans 270 feet across the St. Joseph River and is a beautiful example of camelback bridges that once commonly dotted the landscape across Michigan and also into neighboring Ontario. Built in 1922 under the direction of bridge engineer, C.A. Melick, the Mottville Bridge is the surviving longest example of a concrete camelback arch bridge in Michigan. A standardized set of plans used by the Michigan Highway Department at the time featured the concrete camelback arch bridges at 90 feet long and 22 feet wide. While the Mottville Bridge was bypassed in 1990 by a modern highway bridge running parallel to it along US 12, it is not the first bridge at this location, even though it has been there the longest in terms of its lifespan.

Several bridges and crossings have graced the general location of the Mottville Camelback Bridge in this slice of St. Joseph County, Michigan. First, there was a Native American trail called the Great Sauk Trail, which connected Detroit, Chicago, and Wisconsin and it crossed the St. Joseph River at a shallow spot in this vicinity. In 1825, the United States federal government had the trail surveyed in response to the westward migration of the pioneers, which converted the trail into the Chicago Road. Several shorter-lived bridges were then built in succession in Mottville over the St. Joseph River. The first Chicago Road bridge to cross the river near Mottville was a substantial timber structure that was constructed in 1833 and 1834 by contractor Hart L. Stewart. Then, a pile-supported bridge replaced it in 1845. In 1867 Mahlon Thompson and Joseph Miller built a Burr arch truss covered bridge located just upstream from the modern-day bridge. Today, you can see the ruins of its stone abutments. The Mottville Camelback Bridge was the fourth bridge at this location, and now there is the highway bridge on US 12.

Today, the bridge has not been altered from its original design and appearance, giving it a high level of historic integrity and significance. There is a small parking area near the bridge and the bridge is open for pedestrian use and passive recreation. It was certainly a nice little stopover to see the Mottville Bridge and take in its role in Michigan highway history.

How to Get There:

Sources and Links: - Mottville Bridge
Mottville Township - Mottville Bridge
Atlas Obscura - Mottville Camelback Bridge
The Historical Marker Database - Mottville Bridge
Local Remnants - Historic Mottville Bridge Across St. Joseph River
US 12 Heritage Trail - Mottville
Western Michigan University - Final Report of the Archaeological Site Examination of the U.S. 12 Mottville Bridge and Approaches Replacement Project, St. Joseph and Cass Counties, Michigan


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