Sutliff Bridge through the Years

History has it that in in 1896 or 1897 a sandbar formed in the Cedar River which eventually made the operation of Sutliff’s Ferry, operated by Allan C. Sutliff, unworkable. This caused a great deal of inconvenience for locals who would then have to travel many miles to the next crossing in order to get to the county seat in Iowa City.

In 1897 the contract for a bridge to span the Cedar River was awarded to J.R. Sheely & Co. of Des Moines, Iowa. The winning bid was a whopping $12,000. The bridge, named Sutliff Bridge, was completed and accepted by Johnson County in April of 1898, with a dedication ceremony on June 3rd.

This was the first bridge to cross the Cedar at this location and proved an effective replacement of the ferry service. The structure was an 827'x 16' 8" span wood trestle with a 27' x 16' east approach. Upon the bridge’s retirement in 1983, it was one of only a few remaining Parker trusses known in existence in Iowa.

On September 11, 1999, the Sutliff Bridge with its three arching steel spans over the Cedar River received its due recognition. It was on this date that the Johnson County Iowa Board of Supervisors placed the 102 year old structure on the National Registry of Historic Places. County representatives presented a certificate, commemorating the historic nature of the bridge, to the members of the Sutliff Bridge Authority. Its years of service to Sutliff natives and others were recognized with a plaque which is now proudly displayed in Baxa's Sutliff Store and Tavern.

Tragically, on Friday, June 13, 2008, the first span of this historic bridge collapsed due to the Flood of 2008.  The Sutliff Bridge Authority has been actively working with FEMA, State Historical Society, Johnson County, and structural engineer officials to rebuild this piece of history for our community. You can find out how it's coming along by visiting our Bridge Repair page.

You can donate $60 (or more if you would like) to pay for replacement planks, which also gets your name on a wall of honor inside the Baxa’s Sutliff Store and Tavern.