Monday, November 2, 2009

1894 Rock Island Swing Bridge

Though my fascination with abandoned things began long before, I wanted to post some photos of a place that most recently renewed my interest in a big way. In spring of 2007, based on a tip from a coworker, we decided to go take a peek at this old bridge over the Mississippi in Inver Grove Heights. Though not particularly "mysterious" like abandoned buildings can be, this bridge and it's connected railroad line were there very definition of "abandoned." You could literally feel both history and time here spelled out plain as day in the rusted steel, wheathered wood and overgrown tracks. In addition, there were so many other interesting things about this bridge than just it's age. In it's rich history the bridge carried the Rock Island Railroad on top, cars underneath, had a swing-span that opened to let barges through, was crossed by John Dillinger after a gun battle, was a toll bridge, then a free bridge, then a toll bridge again owned by a private citizen. If you're lucky enough not stumble upon a place like this on your own, and/or be the only persons there at the time, it definitely helps lend to the overall feeling of wonderment about the place. Such was the case on this day in April and it is truly one of the best abandoned places I'll remember. Having made such a memorable impression on me, it's very fitting that this place has since been in the news ever since with stories of its impending fate. Just this spring, most of the structure was demolished, including the entire swing span as well as the eastern and western side entrances thus making it impossible to access what remains of the bridge out in the middle of the river. This certainly adds fuel to whatever motivation I already have for stopping and exploring abandoned places. It sounds like a dorky reason to pull over on the highway or drive out of your way but you never know if that place will still be there the next time you drive by. Read more about this unique -and now gone- bridge at


  1. My mom always used this bridge as a sort of shortcut when I was a kid. To give some context, I am only 26 years old. I don't really remember when the bridge went out of commission but crossing this thing in the 1990's was both thrilling and terrifying. The lady who manned the hut that enclosed the mechanics that would swing the bridge open for barges was our neighbor. One fond memory was being able to stand on the "swing" part when a barge came by...ah, my childhood! The locals called it "the old bridge"...I truly do miss it and am glad to have many memories from when it was still in use. Great blog/post!

  2. Thanks for preserving this bridge along with other good old MN things here. I got to see this a couple of years ago during the teardown while kayaking the Mississippi. There are two other railroad swing bridges similar to this upriver: One just east of St. Paul and the other just west of Harriet Island. The one east of St. Paul was still operational at the time of my trip, I was pleasantly surprised to spot a person manning it while I was photographing.