In Vernon County, northwest of Schell City, down a gravel, then a dirt road (aka Rockville Road/Old River Road) is the Schell City iron bridge over the Osage. This once well-traveled road is treacherous now, even when dry. Spring rains make deep mud of the river’s bottomlands; tractor ruts made in spring harden to ragged ridges that threaten to snag our rented KIA. We hike the last half-mile with cameras and tripod.
Rivers both provide and obstruct transportation routes. A book about a river requires attention to and consideration of the ways the river has been spanned.
Since our last trek, the approach from the south end has collapsed. Stone support pillars, the main span and the north approach are still straight and (apparently) sturdy. The stone pillar on the north side is almost completely swallowed up by sedimentation on that bank. Not far upstream the ill-conceived and appropriately name Bates County Ditch joins the Osage. Dug in the early 1900s, the Ditch probably destabilized the hydrology of the Osage, swinging the sediment load to the north bank, slowly building it up and burying the pillar.
You can find more information on this and other historic bridges at http://bridgehunter.com/mo/vernon/schell-city/
We’ve been roaming and photographing the upper Osage for more than 30 years. Old buildings and old bridges – if you want to see them, make haste.