2014 Historic Bridge Weekend Highlights

Mackinac Bridge at night. One of the key bridges on the places to visit list for this year’s HB Weekend. Photo taken by Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org

From north to south, all of Michigan has been covered. Although this year’s historic bridge weekend may have produced fewer numbers than in the past (due to it taking place in the shoulder season- after summer break), it provided participants with a visit to Michigan’s finest bridges, whether it was the Mackinac Bridge (as seen above) or the bridges in Grand Rapids, or even the states concrete camelback arch bridges. In either case, Michigan has a wide variety of bridges that are worth visiting, as described by Rick McOmber. McOmber is one of the correspondents of HistoricBridges.org, a website founded by Nathan Holth, this year’s coordinator. He has agreed to provide you with some highlights of the events. Photos of the events were taken by Nathan Holth with some more available by clicking here.  Here are the highlights from McOmber:

On September 5-7, 2014 the historic bridge weekend was held in Michigan. Although not as many people attended as previous years it was still a very productive and exciting weekend. I know I could have done a better job of posting details about this gathering earlier but thanks to everyone for spreading the word on their respective websites. This year attendees include James Baughn and his mom from Missouri, Todd Wilson from Pittsburgh and locals Nathan Holth and I.
Friday Sept 5, 2014
Once the strong thunderstorms cleared our trip began as Todd, Nathan and I left East Lansing, MI and headed north on I-75. Before checking in at our hotel in St Ignace, a few night photos were in order for the Mackinac Bridge. Crossing this beautiful suspension bridge at night with the 552 ft. towers lit up is an amazing experience. James and his mother were also in Northern Michigan Friday visiting bridges on their way up.

International Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie Michigan/Ontario. Photos taken by Nathan Holth
International Railroad Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie Michigan/Ontario






Saturday Sept 6, 2014
We awoke to sunny skies Saturday so we returned to the Mackinac Bridge early to obtain some side views. Some painting/maintenance work was in progress but the on-site workers were kind enough to uncover some plastic covering on the Steinman plaque so we all could get photos. James captured some excellent pictures of the Mackinac Bridge later on in the day as he took a ferry tour. Once our morning photos were complete we drove to Sault St. Marie and crossed the border to Canada. This afforded us some spectacular vantage points of the International Bridge along with the Int. swing dam bridge; portal views of the 8 span pin-connected railroad bridge and Canadian locks. We ate lunch then drove back to Sault St. Marie USA where we drove a top the campus of Lake Superior St University so we could take aerial photos of the Int. Bridge. (Thanks for researching this location Nathan) We paid a quick visit to the Soo locks before departing to photo document the Ashmun St through arch bridge. This 1935 span was a favorite among all of us. We then headed west so we could visit the deck cantilever Cut River Bridge. Using the walkway we were able some get some adequate side photographs. We continued west on Route 2, stopped at a scenic byway to get distant views of the Mackinac bridge. Shortly after we met up with the Baughns at the Bridge View Park. After a brief visit we drove to Charlevoix to photo a double leaf bascule along with warren through rail bridge now a part of a rail trail. Although late in the day we began an adventuresome trek on the back roads of Michigan to a rehabbed pin connected pony truss (Iron Road) bridge. We headed south to Grayling, MI where there was enough daylight to photo the Au Sable River bridge which is a rigid frame with unique railings. After that we drove into town to eat at Dawson & Stevens which is a 1950’s theme restaurant to discuss the day’s events and relax.

Mottville Bridge, one of a handful of camelback concrete arch bridges left in Michigan

Sunday Sept 7, 2014
Weather cooperated again with sunny skies and once our lavish breakfast at Tim Horton’s was complete James joined Todd, Nathan and I for the Sunday tour. Our goal was to visit Grand Rapids area and bridges in southwest Michigan. Before stopping in Grand Rapids we visited a Pratt Through Railroad Bridge in Lowell and the Burroughs St Camelback pony truss. While In Grand Rapids we visited the 6th St, Blue Rail Bridge, North Park St, Indian Mounds,  a lattice girder bridge. Fortunately we were able to get nice pictures of the significant 1924 Pine Island drive concrete curved chord through girder before modern Armco railings were installed. We left the greater Kent county area and drove down to one of feature bridges of the trip, 1879 New Richmond swing pony truss bridge. The King Bridge Co Whipple was next in Allegan, MI, one of only 3 whipple examples in Michigan. We stopped for lunch and then it was on to the city of Plainwell for some of our states best ice cream, a good way to break up the day. We drove next to Mottville which was another key bridge of the trip to visit (270 Ft concrete curved chord through girder bridge) and an engineering landmark designated by MDOT. We continued on to St Joseph County, MI to visit several pin connected trusses Marantette, Haybridge Rd, and the ½ Mile road through truss. We drove to the M-86 Camelback pony truss before this span is moved at a later date. We had enough daylight to dip into Lagrange County, Indiana to see the IN-120 Bridge and glad it was still standing. This through truss has serious section loss at the lower chord connection points.
That concluded our trip as the group closed out the weekend dining in East Lansing, MI Sunday evening. From Sault St. Marie to LaGrange County, IN it was another fun time had by all and successful historic bridge weekend. Our long distance travel awards go to Todd and James, we thank you for visiting  “Pure Michigan”. I thank you Todd for arranging our efficient and fun to drive VW Passat rental car. Nathan we all appreciate your meticulous trip mapping each day. For additional questions on trip details or photos contact anyone of us. I look forward to seeing everyone at the 2015 Historic Bridge Weekend Event!
Rick McOmber –

A list of bridges visited can be found by clicking here. Planning is in the works to highlight the bridges to visit in Sault Ste. Marie and Grand Rapids to give you an idea which historic bridges to visit while in Michigan, in addition to the Historic Bridge Park near Kalmazoo.They will be posted here as soon as the tour guides are finished.

As far as the 2015 Historic Bridge Weekend are concerned, the venue is still open, although ideas of hosting one in Minnesota, Indiana and Iowa had been brought up prior to the event. Even though it is early to plan, if you have any suggestions for visiting historic bridges for next year’s event, please contact the author of the Chronicles, Nathan Holth at HistoricBridges.org, Todd Wilson at Bridgemapper or James Baughn at Bridgehunter.com to present your ideas. Who knows, your place may be on our agenda for visiting next year. The Chronicles will keep you in the loop regarding the Historic Bridge Weekend as well as other upcoming events pertaining to historic bridges and preservation.

The author would like to thank the organizers of the 2014 Historic Bridge Weekend for the write-up and photos, some of the latter of which were posted here as highlights.