During my fire chasing of springtime burning of the tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills of Kansas, I came across a true bridge to nowhere. Near the ghost-town-like town of Clements lies the Clements Stone Arch Bridge, the largest and among the oldest limestone bridges in the state. It is a truly impressive structure with each of it double arches spanning across the Cottonwood River.
Construction, using locally quarried limestone was completed in 1888. In 1976, the bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The bridge once served as a vital link for cattle ranchers and farmers to get their goods to market. Today, the bridge unceremoniously stands hidden in the trees with the bridge roadbed ending immediately in a farmer’s field.
While the bridge has been replaced with a modern bridge, the Clements stone arch bridge is a reminder of the rich history of the Flint Hills region. Other nearby places of historic interest include the Spring Hill Farm and Stock Ranch, the Lower Fox Creek School (both located within the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve), and the Chase County Courthouse. Those locations are either on or just off the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway (K-177) near the towns of Strong City and Cottonwood Falls.
ABOVE: The abandoned Clements Stone Arch Bridge over the Cottonwood River is located in the Kansas Flint Hills approximately 1/2 mile south of Clements, south of highway US 50 near the Flying W Ranch in Chase County. The bridge with its massive 28 foot double arches is the largest and one of the oldest limestone bridges in Kansas.
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