Battle Creek’s Historic Bridge Park is a Unique and Fun Family Destination
Michigan is home to thousands of parks that offer outdoor fin for the entire family. One of the Lower Peninsula’s most unique parks is Battle Creek’s Historic Bridge Park, which is home to five metal truss bridges (and one stone arch bridge), the North Country Trail, access to the Kalamazoo River, picnic areas, a playground, and more. Short trails connect the bridges, making this park an open-air museum full of history and natural beauty. The park’s location just off of I-94 also makes it any easy addition to a day trip to Binder Park Zoo, Firekeepers Casino, or downtown Battle Creek. Below we will take a look at the history of each bridge, and share some pictures of everything else the park has to offer.
Charlotte Hwy. Bridge – The drive into the park goes under this red metal truss bridge that dates back to the 1880s. This bridge is more than 170 feet long and used to be located in Ionia County. This was the most recent truss bridge added to the park and one of the few remaining bridges built by Buckeye Bridge and Iron Works of Cleveland, OH.
Gale Road Bridge – This 122 foot bridge was built in 1897 and used to cross the Grand River in Ingham County. It now crosses Dickinson Creek in the park, and it is the last remaining skewed Pratt through truss bridge in the state.
Bauer Road Bridge – A 90 foot bridge that used to cross the Looking Glass River in Calhoun County, this is one of the oldest truss bridges in Michigan and the only one in the state built by Penn Bridge Company (Pennsylvania).
133rd Avenue Bridge – This was the first bridge added to the park. Formerly a crossing over the Rabbit River in Allegan County, it was built in Portland, MI by the Michigan Bridge Company in 1897. It is a half-hip Pratt pony truss bridge, which was once a very common style.
20 Mile Road Bridge – A Pratt pony truss bridge built in 1907, this bridge once crossed the St. Joseph River in Calhoun County. It is 70 feet long and is the only bridge in the park with riveted connections.
Dixon’s Bridge – The only bridge in the park that isn’t a metal truss bridge, Dixon’s Bridge still stands in its original location. It was built by the Michigan Central Railroad in 1891. From Historicbridges.org: “This unique two-span arch bridge sits in its original location, crossing Dickinson Creek with a small arch span and the trail, which was once F Drive North, with a larger stone arch span. The bridge is unusual for Michigan because it crosses both the creek and the roadway in a single bridge, and also for the arch spans of differing size.”
The North Country Trail passes through the park. Michigan has more NCT miles than any other state and local chapters help maintain the trail. For more information about the trail in the Battle Creek area, visit the home page for the Chief Noonday Chapter (https://northcountrytrail.org/trail/michigan/cnd/).
Historic Bridge Park has a playground and plenty of picnic tables and pavilions.
The Kalamazoo River winds past the park. There is a fully accessible kayak launch and when the weather is warm there will be plenty of people out on the water.
Historicbridges.org has extensive information on the bridges in this park (and every other bridge in the state). You can download a map and guide that shows you where each bridge is and gives details about its history and significance: https://historicbridges.org/info/bridgepark/guide.htm. The park is located on S. Wattles Rd., just north of I-94. The easiest access comes from exit 100 (eastbound) or exit 104 (westbound).