Where on Earth?

Kansas
Kansas

 

 

The arrow points to the Clements Stone Arch Bridge, in Chase County, in the Flint Hills region of eastern Kansas, an area of particular character noted by many photographers, such as this one. The bridge itself attracts photographers, both amateur and professional, as seen here or here. There was also a photographic essay in the April 2007 issue of National Geographic Magazine. Unlike most of Kansas, the stony land of the Flint Hills made plowing difficult or impossible, except in the creek and river bottoms. This disappointment to the early settlers has left a unique landscape: a seemingly endless rolling prairie of tall grass, widely spaced gravel roads, sparse settlements, and few people.

Chase County
Chase County

 

 

Chase County, like most of the prairie, has never attracted large numbers of people. Nevertheless, the history of the county shows that people in the late 19th century saw opportunities in the Valley of the Cottonwood that may elude us today.

 

However well earned was the name Flint Hills, the stones on the surface showed the way to a near limitless supply of building-grade limestone just beneath the surface. Typical of the optimism of the late 19th Century the settlers built some truly monumental structures, the most well known being the Chase County Court House in Cottonwood Falls. Another example is the Spring Hill Ranch buildings, now headquarters of the nation's newest national park, the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, and the Clover Cliff Ranch, until recently an upscale bed & breakfast. The county even has other stone arch bridges none so grand as the one in Clements, but enough of them to demonstrate that stone arches were the local means of choice, for a time at least, for putting a road across the water.

Clements
Clements vicinity

 

 

Town sites were being laid out all along the route of the railroads being built through Kansas. The Clements town site was one of countless such enterprises.

USGS maps, and some others, show a road coming off highway US 50 and running south through the site of Clements, that little trapezoid shape between the railroad track and the river. The road crosses the river and continues south along Coyne Branch, passing by the Flying W Ranch. The bridge appears in the right location on the maps, but the road no longer crosses it. A new, wider bridge carries the realigned road now, a short distance east (downstream), leaving the old bridge roadless. Find the bridge at -96.734897, 38.295489. 

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