Two More Cowley Stone Culverts

281st Road Culvert

Having completed a thorough search of the unpaved roads of Dexter Township, Cowley County, Kansas, we found more stone arch culverts that are not on the county’s stone bridge brochure. Cowley County, Kansas, is famous for its stone bridges, and it is clear that a systematic check of the county’s roads will be required to determine exactly how many stone bridges and culverts remain on Cowley’s roads.

A Unique Stone Concrete Composite Culvert on 251st Road

On 251st Road, south of 251st’s intersection with 176th Road, we found a small stone arch culvert. Widened on one side with a concrete pipe, it still has one visible face.

Dexter Township 251st Road Culvert (3)
The 251st Road composite culvert.

A close study of the photographs of this culvert reveals it is actually a hybrid structure. The stone arch on this culvert actually appears to be a facing for a concrete arch culvert; there is a noticeable crack where the stone joins the concrete. This is hardly likely to be a decorative facade, especially since this structure is just a small culvert. Indeed, the spandrels, approaches, etc. are truly of stone; only the interior of the arch appears to be concrete. The stone arch on the face of the culvert is a true stone arch, even if it is the front for a concrete arch. This construction method is similar to the Otter Creek Bridge in Greenwood County, Kansas. A photograph looking through the culvert shows where the stone appears to end in the concrete.

Looking through the 251st Road culvert.

There is a slight possibility that what appears to be concrete could actually be mortar or even shotcrete smeared over the surface of the stone. Many of Dexter Township’s culverts were obviously built with a runny batch of mortar poured into the joints of the arch. The mortar then hardened on the underside of the arch to form a concrete-like coating on the stonework. However, in these cases the mortar forms a thin, smooth surface over everything. The mortar is frequently found largely chipped away, revealing clearly the stonework. On the 251st culvert shown above, clearly defined stone masonry is not visible beyond the arch faces, and the cement layer that is visible obviously has small stone fragments embedded in it like one would expect to see in concrete. This coupled with the fact that the stones of the face of the arch can be clearly seen and are not interleaved with any visible stones on the inside suggests that true stone arches were laid for the faces, and then concrete was poured to form the middle of the culvert.

Another possible explanation for this peculiar design is that the middle portion of the culvert collapsed and was replaced with concrete, but again, the narrow arch faces showing little evidence of ever having been bonded with interior stonework makes it appear that the culvert was always a hybrid structure. It is also extremely improbable that the culvert was a concrete arch that was slightly widened at one point with a stone arch; it appears the culvert was always a combination of stone and concrete. The main advantage of this hybrid method of construction would be economy; stone was overall a cheaper material when this culvert would have been built, but concrete was far easier to form into an arch than stone would be. Therefore, a hybrid between the two would represent the most economical solution, and represents the transition from the inexpensive stone, which would require some lengthy skilled labor, to the more expensive concrete, which would have been far easier and less time-consuming to work with.

The 281st Road Culvert

This little stone arch culvert remains in excellent shape, though it appears it must spend wetter seasons at least partially submerged for long periods. It is located on a dead-end piece of 281st Road a short way south of 281st’s intersection with 162nd Road.

281st Road Culvert
The 281st Road culvert.

This small stone arch bridge is yet another example of Dexter Township’s massive stone arch culvert building campaign, and is quite small and simple, but entirely effective.

The Township Culverts

Having completed a thorough search of the public unpaved roads of Dexter Township, Cowley County, Kansas, we found a total of nine stone arch culverts not found on the county’s stone arch bridge brochure, though one, as stated above, appears to actually be a composite structure. How many other Cowley County townships have hitherto undocumented stone arch culverts on the roads?