Mystery Bridge Nr. 32: A Bridge in a Lake

Photos taken in August 2013

Our next mystery bridge takes us back to Marion County, Iowa and precisely to this bridge. Located on the north side of Red Rock Lake just east of Hwy. 14, one finds this unique structure. From a bird’s eye perspective, the bridge is low enough that it may be considered a pontoon bridge. But it does seem weird that the roadway is low enough that it is on the same level as the water level of Red Rock Lake, making it prone to flooding. Yet looks can be deceiving. Have a look at the following pictures of the bridge when up close….

Judging by these angles, one can see that the bridge and road have not been used for a long time. These are the remnants of the old Hwy. 14 Bridge and highway, all of which are either partially or completely inundated by the waters of Red Rock Lake.

Here are some facts we do know about these remains. There were at least two bridges that carried the old highway (but guesses are three or four): this one and the Des Moines River crossing. Both of which were built in the 1940s replacing earlier structures that were most likely steel truss bridges. But this happened before plans for Red Rock Lake were revealed in the 1950s, sentencing this highway and the bridges, together with a dozen other bridges and at least six towns located along the Des Moines River to be inundated. While the removal and relocation of some structures in the area were successful, other streets and some places like this one were left to be covered in water. The new Highway 14 Bridge was opened in 1965 and featured three bridges, the longest one is over a mile long, making it the longest bridge in the state. Once the bridges were opened and the Red Rock Dam, located 10 miles east of there was completed, all of the obsolete Hwy. 14 and its bridges were left to be taken over by water. Today, once can access this bridge and the highway remains on the north end by foot only as well as fish from the bridge- a piece of history to be reminded of what the region looked like before Red Rock Lake was created.

What is missing about this bridge and old highway is the history: namely what the bridges and road looked like before they were inundated. Furthermore, information is needed about their construction history and the truss bridges that existed prior to their replacement in the 1940s. Photos and any information are welcomed. If you have any information that is useful, please send it to Jason Smith at the Chronicles at You can also put your thoughts about the bridge in the comments section here as well as on facebook. More photos of the bridge and region can be found by clicking here.

The Chronicles will provide some information on this bridge as it comes.

Winona Bridge to receive a sister

Photo taken in September 2010

Parallel span to be built beginning in 2014; cantilever structure to be rehabilitated afterwards

There is something about the city of Winona, located along the Mississippi River, that makes it attractive for passers-by. The city prides itself on its historic business district, its ghost stories, its natural surroundings, and its rather open-minded culture. No wonder why the parents of actress Winona Ryder named her after this city, even though she was born in neighboring Olmsted County.

The city also takes pride in its lone Mississippi River crossing, which takes travelers into a highly wooded state of Wisconsin.  Built in 1940, the 1.5 mile long bridge features a 1000 foot cantilever Warren through truss, a 1,500 foot south approach span, which glides the drivers into the city of Winona, going over a nearby gas station, and the north approach which features wide berms that account for the rest of the bridge’s length, crossing sloughs along the way.

This icon, a product of the Minneapolis Bridge Company, is about to receive a sister.

Beginning in 2014, work will start on a two-lane structure, made of steel girders, which will alleviate traffic on the 1940 structure. Once completed in 2016, the cantilever truss span will be rehabilitated which includes replacing the approach spans and strengthening the trusses. During the time of renovation, traffic will be diverted onto the new bridge for a few months. In the end, two lanes of traffic will flow in each direction, with the cantilever truss bridge carrying eastbound traffic. The reason is two-fold: 1. The cantilever truss bridge is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and is an integral part of the historic city center. And 2. Less traffic travels across the bridge than the neighboring bridges along the Mississippi River, namely the Dresbach Bridge at LaCrosse, which is being replaced this year, and the Wabasha Bridge to the north. That combined with age contributed with the decision of MnDOT to leave the 1940 bridge in place and give it a sibling, although an identical cantilever through truss bridge would make the area more aesthetically appealing.

Despite agreements on this plan, the new bridge will come at the cost of some buildings, including a nearby Sinclair gas station, where I was getting a picture of the bridge from this angle:

While the gas attendants found the angle shot to be impressive during my visit in 2010, they did not know about the bridge when asked about it. They will now for the new span will be to the west of the bridge and encroaching their station. And while not even the toughest of gas attendants (who boasted about being a female wrestler taking down drivers refusing to pay for gas) cannot resist the machine known as land acquisition for the new sibling, it is highly conclusive that they are not alone and a new home will be made for them. Disgruntled? Perhaps. But while some will say that the Winona Bridge will be the one that cost us our jobs because of the new sibling, others will beg to differ and say, “Winona (Bridge) Forever! The bridge is our icon, a part of our lives.”  While it is too early to speculate how the new bridge will look like once it is completed, it will be interesting to see how the new bridge will change the way we enter and exit the city once it has been completed, two years from now….

The Winona Bridge will be the second bridge in Minnesota that will have a new span to alleviate traffic. There was another bridge that used to have a replacement span that served side-by-side the original structure. That was until it was demolished in the 1990s. Can you name that bridge and its location?  The Chronicles will have the answer very soon!

And lastly, as we’re on the same topic, a pair of questions pertaining to Winona Ryder:

1. Whereabouts in Olmsted County was she born?

2. Of the numerous films she starred in over the course of over two decades, which film was your favorite?

While the first question can only be answered by the actress herself, the second question you can post in the Chronicles’ comment section, in addition to your thoughts on the Winona Bridge receiving a sibling for a bridge.

More pictures of the Winona Bridge (half of which were taken in 2010) can be found by clicking here.