By Montana Grant

Posted: July 21, 2019

Time moves on, things change, and old bridges are lost. Three, once important bridges in Gallatin County are on their way to the scrap heap. These century old structures supported many people, critters, vehicles, and development. Once removed, they will be replaced with more modern structures.

Varney Bridge

               This bridge near Cameron, spans the Madison River. Named after Osmand Varney, a businessman/ rancher from Virginia City. In 1897 he constructed this bridge to support his transport company and horse farm. The area around the bridge was home to his 5,000-10,000 horses.

               This Madison County bridge is currently being dismantled and rebuilt. The center support pier will also go away. Access and parking are restricted in this area due to construction.

Nixon Gulch Bridge

               This Gallatin County bridge was originally placed across the East Gallatin River in the town of Central Park which was between Manhattan and Belgrade. In 1923 it was moved to its current location for a cost of $1,824.50. It is estimated to cost 2 million dollars to replace this bridge first built in 1891. This pinned, steel through truss bridge is one of the last in the world. Only 4 others exist in Montana. At 148 feet long and 141/2 feet wide, traffic is one lane. This bridge is currently being demolished and replaced.

               History of the bridge is limited. I assume that it was a mining venture named after its owner. The Gallatin Forks Fishing Access is at the bridge where the east and west Gallatin Rivers join.

Axtell Bridge

               This Warren through truss bridge was erected in 1919, just after WW1. The Montana State Highway Commission built this bridge to improve development in the area. Charles Anceney’s 100,000 acre Flying D Ranch, and other properties, now gained access to a spur of the Milwaukee Road Railway. The Railroads hotel and facilities were located at the hotel near Gallatin Gateway. The Bozeman Hot Springs and roads to Bozeman were also more available. This similar bridge is 140.1 feet long and 15.4 feet wide. Single Lane traffic is the rule. This bridge site is also a Fishing Access to the West Gallatin River.

               This bridge is scheduled to be replaced. The Gallatin County authorities are asking for suggestions and input for the new design. I am not sure who the bridge was named after.

Once these bridges are gone, we can only remember them. History is important to reflect upon where we came from and where we are going. Every time old bits of our past are demolished; we are just left with stories and pictures. So many critters, wagons, people, and vehicles traveled these old spans. They were able to keep their feet dry despite high water and bad weather. 

These old spans were” bridges over troubled waters”. Hopefully the new ones will do the same for the next century.

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, find him at www.montanagrantfishing.com.