Bridges on Dry Creek

“Dry Creek” aka Dry Fork of North Fork of Powder River

Spring brings snowmelt and rain which flows (and floods) down the old creek bed known as Dry Creek in central Johnson County. It is a misnomer to call it a “dry creek” as springs, seeps and standing water fill the channel, sometimes running underground into North Fork. Trying to negotiate this annual tide can be challenging.

Our walking path . . .

Once ice melts, we have to wear very tall boots or find another way around. Our daily walks are part of the routine, whether in rain, snow or shine. We also find it difficult to drive or operate equipment with a moat running through our property. Ducks, wild geese and birds love it, but the larger critters run into problems. Feedlot, our 1,000+ pound steer sinks into the mud and if he gets stuck, we have our hands full, literally.

Bridging the Gap . . . .

A pile of refuse (really?– on this place?) revealed a sturdy cast-off telephone pole, saved for some nebulous future use and when the creek dried up in September we drug it into place next to the fence. The water has come close, but has not run over this makeshift bridge, which I am determined to traverse each day without hanging onto the fence. Maud does it, I can do it, but Michael’s size 13 shoes just don’t want to hang on and he grabs the fence for balance.

Bridge Over Troubled Waters . . . .

In a wider, shallower section of the creek, we dumped rock in to make a bridge on the road leading to the lower pasture. The water matriculates through the stones and travels on its way down the creek. This crossing is pretty easy to negotiate until it freezes up and coats the rocks with ice.

Bridge to Nowhere . . . .

We installed a culvert just above the pond and filled in with dirt and rock to create a road across the creek. It is a rough ride, but we can drive across it most of the year. Right now it is pretty soggy and our steer leaves deep tracks in the mud. Water is backed up on both sides of the road and the culvert is completely submerged, but so far it has not run over the road.

A Bridge Too Far . . . .

These 16-ft. planed pine logs were part of the Nine Mile homestead cabin which was moved to the ranch headquarters in the late 1950’s. When we took the cabin down, we saved all the logs that were in good shape and used the rest in a variety of ways. These two are sturdy, even though they were milled over 100 years ago at the Mayoworth sawmill, and they make an excellent walking surface.

Crossing The Bridge . . . .

Frustrated that part of the walking path was submerged in water, I drug up some old corral poles and a long timber and anchored them on a downed tree trunk that protruded into the water. It was shaky, unreliable and dumped more than one traveler. Maud and I negotiated fairly well (you had to tip your toes down and lean a little to keep the long timber from teetering out from under you) but again, Michael’s size 13 shoes failed to make the journey. A few others with smaller shoes failed as well. Something had to be done!

Would you use this bridge? . . .

Previous mention of “refuse” needs an explanation. Dad and other area ranchers utilized oil field surplus of all kinds — pipe, sucker rod, pumps, scrap of all kinds, as well as wooden walking beams leftover from the days of wooden derricks in the Salt Creek field. Made of oak, they were meant to last a very long time. Two of the walking beams had migrated under the fence and out of sight until Michael asked for my help in hauling them down to the creek bottom.

A Bridge With Possibilities . . . .

We drug them from the barn yard down into the bottom and lined them out, taking measure to see if they were long enough to span the water in the creek. Amazing that they were sound after laying in the sun and wind for 40-odd years! Now the question looming large was “how do we get them across the creek?” Driving was out of the question – if we got the four-wheeler buried in mud, we would have to get the tractor to pull it out. Then we could get the tractor buried as well.

Love Can Build A Bridge . . . .

Michael had an idea we could move the beams with straps, which we have used successfully on many occasions, but this looked dubious. Somebody has to lead and somebody has to follow. Who is going to wade into the creek strapped to oak beams that weigh a ton?

Hoist upon a petard? . . .

At this stage of the operation, the camera crew (me) has to engage in the action at hand, which was quite complicated. We should have had a videographer! We began by sliding one of the beams in the water alongside my old, shaky bridge. Then I crossed to the other side and was able to reach the tip of the beam, dragging it out of the creek and up on the bank. With a strap, I was able to move my end up to the bridge site. Michael carried his end up to the site on the opposite side of the creek. He then shoved the second beam into the water, and I crossed to the other side to drag it up on the bank. Once we had them in place, we moved the long timber from my old bridge, laid it alongside the walking beams, wired the bundle together in a couple places and voila! A bridge that even Feed Lot can cross on (we have not witnessed him trying, but he has been as inconvenienced as we are with all our routes covered in water.)

Katya is our first customer . . .

In all, we have five crossings that are rude, crude and ugly but work to transport us across the water in “Dry Creek.”

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