Riverton, Kansas: Marsh Arch “Rainbow” Bridge

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As you drive between Kansas’ two main Route 66 towns, Galena and Baxter Springs, you pass through the community of Riverton.  Just like its slightly larger sisters to the east and to the south, Riverton holds a few impressive treasures of the old road.

At Riverton, Route 66 makes a 90-degree turn south.  The original route turns from KS Rte. 66 onto US Hwy. Alt-69.  The Spring River Inn sign and Eisler Bros. is located on the KS 66 portion, while the Marsh Arch Bridge is just south of the junction, on Alt-69.

The first (assuming you’re driving westbound) is the classy old neon sign for the Spring River Inn.  The inn itself is gone–the sign now stands watch over the entrance to a subdivision. One of the ladies back at 4 Women On The Route told me she was married near this sign, before the area was redeveloped into a neighborhood.

Just a short distance down the road, you’ll be stopping once again to peek inside the Eisler Brothers Food Market.  It’s been in operation since before Route 66 received its alignment, which just happened to run right outside the front door.

You’ll find two rooms inside the Eisler Bros. store.  The first serves as a grocery store and deli, the second is the former living quarters of the owners, and is now packed with Route 66 and Cars movie souvenirs.

Eisler Bros. was originally called the Williams Store.  Its doors have been open for business since 1925.  Be sure to notice the old pressed-metal ceiling inside, and an outhouse in back.  For a complete history lesson, check out the Eisler Bros. website.

Historic “Rainbow” Marsh Arch Bridge

It took a big effort to save the last of Kansas’ three beautiful concrete arch bridges from demolition.  The state’s Route 66 association had to fight against road officials, who were required to tear down any old bridge that was to be replaced using federal funds.  Two similar bridges on Route 66 in Kansas weren’t so lucky; this is the only remaining bridge of its type on the entire route.

Fortunately, the old 1923 bridge is right next to the 1960’s version, so you can’t miss it as you drive by.  And, it’s still structurally sound, so you can drive across it.

The pavement that crosses the bridge is decorated with at least a dozen painted 66 shields, and at least a half dozen of them are of different designs.  The bridge itself used to be decorated too–the locals called it Graffiti Bridge.  Nowadays it still takes a vigilant effort to keep the bridge’s white paint pristine.

The bridge is officially named Rainbow Bridge, but you may also hear it called the Marsh Arch Bridge.  This refers to the designs drafted by engineer James Barney Marsh. Because of their appearance, many of Marsh’s bridges became known as “rainbow” bridges. About 14 still stand today.

As I headed on into Baxter Springs, I spotted yet another road relic: an old DX gas station at the side of the road.  Its old diamond-shaped sign has been a bit abused over the years, but it still stands.

Note: This trip was first published in 2008.

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