Mystery Bridge 12: The Bridge out in the middle of nowhere

Oblique view. Photos courtesy of MnDOT This one was taken in 1962

Some time ago, as I was gathering some information for one of the articles I wanted to write for the Chronicles, I happened to scroll around the Root River region using Bing (please refer to an earlier article on Binging for Bridges here.) The region has been and is still filled with metal truss bridges that were built in the 1920s and earlier, even though some of them have been recently closed to traffic due to structural concerns. The river starts in several different areas of Fillmore and Olmsted Counties before converging into one single entity near Whalan (located east of Lanesboro) and slithering like a python enroute to the Mississippi River east of Hokah, a length of over 200 miles counting the main branches. The river is surrounded by high hills and forests and is accompanied by a bike trail which starts at Fountain and (after joining another bike trail at Preston), follows the trail up to Houston.

East of the Houston between county highway 9 on the north side and Minnesota highway 16 on the south end, one will find a hidden jewel that remains over the Root River- the last of its kind. Unlike its counterparts, which have long since been replaced over the past 20 years, this Camelback through truss bridge was built in 1928- according to records provided by the Minnesota Department of Transportation- but has been sitting abandoned since 1986. The bridge has A-frame portal bracing and riveted connections, and the total length is 154 feet long, with the truss span being 148 feet.

It is unknown who built this bridge except this was probably built using state standards introduced in 1914, where pin-connected truss bridges and the creative designs that were invented by many bridge engineers were considered void in favor of the standardized truss bridges with riveted connections- namely Pratt, Parker, Camelback and Warren, although a handful of bridges in Minnesota were built using the Pennsylvania and Baltimore designs, including the Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter.

It is also unknown about the history of the bridge in connection with the nearby community of Houston- 1 mile west of the structure. We do know that a group of citizens in 1985 petitioned to the county to have the bridge taken off the public road system and put into private hands. It was approved in August 1985 and by 1986, the bridge was privately owned, which still holds true today. Access to the bridge is only possible through a narrow dirt road off of county highway 9 on the north side, even though permission to walk on the bridge is needed if one wants to photograph the bridge.

However, stories and the history of the bridge are needed to round out its story, including the motives behind transferring ownership of the bridge to private owners and vacating the road in 1986, a rarity for private owners of a bridge have to assume as much responsibility for the bridge as the local, state and even national governments. But this successful attempt to gain ownership of the bridge has its reasons and it must be heard so that other people who want to own a unique bridge like this one can do so. So please share your stories about this bridge via Jason Smith, using the contact information provided below:

Jason Smith:

To freshen your memory of the bridge, some pics, courtesy of MnDOT are below. Looking forward to hearing your stories.


Side view. Photo taken in 1952
Portal view. Photo taken in 1969
Oblique view. Photo taken in 1983, shortly before its closure.