Kansas Historic Route 66 Byway
When Route 66 first gained federal status in 1926, it traveled over Kansas roads already paved.
At a time when hard-surfaced roads were a rarity in Kansas, Cherokee County was an exception. Prior to the turn of the century, engineers had begun mixing a common byproduct from the mining industry known as "chat" into the roadbeds between Galena and Baxter Springs. Chat is the finely crushed stone that is separated out from lead and zine ores during sifting. When mixed with the native soil and compacted, it produced a hard cement-like surface. The mining industry not only demanded good roads, it essentially paid for them through the generous tax revenues it generated. The entire Kansas portion of Route 66 was installed or improved between 1921 and 1923, including the Galena Viaduct and Marsh Arch "Rainbow" Bridge.
To drive the bridges of Kansas Route 66 is to experience the dawn of the American highway.
Beyond routine maintenance, the Galena Viaduct and Marsh Arch "Rainbow" Bridge have seen minimal improvements since their construction in 1923. Accordingly, they offer a unique driving experience for the typical American motorist. At 24 feet in width, they are far narrower than modern highway bridges. In the case of the Viaduct, the approach and descent are noticeably steep. Drivers are rewarded at the summit with an expansive view of Hell's Half Acre.
In the case of the "Rainbow" Bridge, the view to be enjoyed is that of the bridge's iconic design. Until being dismantled in 1986, a second and similar Mar[s]h Arch bridge brought Route 66 traffic over the Spring River. Negotiations between the Kansas Historic Route 66 Association and the County in 1992 saved the remaining bridge from a similar fate. Though limited to southbound traffic only, it is an attraction not to be missed.
[Photo captions read]
Marsh Arch "Rainbow" Bridge
Named for its designer and patent holder, James Barney Marsh, hundreds of similar bridges were built across the country in the early decades of the 20th century. This one remains the last along the entire length of Route 66.
Safely guiding motorists over the tracks of the Missour[i]-Kansas-Texas (M-K-T, or Katy) Railroad for more than 90 years, this bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of East Galena's Historic Business District.