Aerial Lift Bridge – Duluth’s Iconic Span

Duluth, Minnesota.

It’s been about 15 years since we last visited the port city of Duluth on Lake Superior. It’s time we went back. With my continuing series on bridges in mind, I decided to reprocess a couple of images from our visit a decade and a half ago.

Hampered by the low pixel count of my Fuji FinePix 3800 I had at the time, I am limited in resolution for these photos, but they didn’t turn out all that bad considering the age of the camera, an early digital model.

But I digress from the subject of the bridge itself. Construction of the bridge started in 1901 and was completed in 1905. The span connects Duluth with a five-mile (8 km) sandbar called Park Point, which is also known as Minnesota Point. Originally a cable car traversed the bridge truss at the top carrying passengers, wagons, and automobiles, but in 1929 it was rebuilt providing a flat deck for vehicles to drive across the bridge. The unique design of the bridge is similar to only one other in the world, located in France.

The opening image features a view of the descending lift as I captured it just after it was raised for the boat we were riding on. When fully extended, the bridge provides a clearance of 180 feet (55 m) to allow taller ships to pass below into the harbor area.

Lift Bridge in Duluth-1

The bridge deck, when lowered provides a roadway some 386 feet (118 m) across. The entire span at the base of the bridge is 502 feet (153 m). According to an article here published by goduluthmn.com, the bridge operates 24 hours a day with skilled operators raising and lowering the bridge an average of 26 times a day in the busy summer season. At one time, pedestrians were allowed to ride on the bridge as it went up and down until a tragic accident that killed a pedestrian in the 1980s.

Over the years, the bridge was reworked five times. In addition to the 1929 rebuild that added the roadway, it was modified for various alterations and repairs in 1986, 1999, 2007, and 2009. The unusual bridge is on the National Historic Registry and it is located near the Lake Superior Marine Museum.

Click on either image to view it on my Flickr site. You can also click here to visit the album.

John Steiner

21 comments

  1. Beautiful photos in the warm light of the setting sun. There is something funny about bridges that are meant to connect and become an obstacle. But the human genius is there to find the solution.

    • There is a similar bridge in western North Dakota, raised and lowered only once during its construction phase to test its operation. The lift was meant to allow steamboat traffic to transit up and down the river. By the time the bridge was completed, there was no more steamboat traffic.

  2. I find it amazing that anyone discovered how to make bridges that stay up, the way I feel about airplanes flying not matter the science behind them. This one doing double-duty is so interesting!

    • Toonsarah commented here about a bridge that always remains high and a gondola carries cars and people across the river. That, too, is an interesting innovation, Janet. Check out her link to see a photo of it.

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