The Stories Behind 6 of Iowa’s Coolest Bridges


By Sean Dengler
February 28, 2023

Ah, bridges: Those important infrastructure pieces that get people across Iowa’s many ravines, rivers, and sometimes lakes.

While they may need more work (like a lot more), at least you don’t have to ford the river in your Subaru. Some Iowa bridges are even worth a special visit.

If you have time and wheels, take a drive to see these beautiful bridges throughout the Hawkeye State:

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Sutliff Bridge

Photo courtesy Iowa DOT

This beautiful bridge located near the unincorporated town of Sutliff in Johnson County is a “pin-connected parker through truss,” according to the Iowa DOT.

The 827-foot-long bridge was constructed after ferry service was discontinued, and residents petitioned county supervisors to make a permanent structure.

The bridge was built between 1897 and 1898 for the price of approximately $12,000. At the time, it was one of the longest in the county.

In 1984, area residents purchased the beloved bridge from Johnson County. But after the floods of 2008, the bridge was swept away and it wasn’t clear if it would be built again.

After four years and nearly $1.9 million, the bridge was reopened in 2012, according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette. It now serves as pedestrian bridge to a surrounding public park.

Would I jog or walk across this bridge?

Walk. The beautiful view is worth it.

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Swinging Bridge

Photo by Evan Johannson

Located in Columbus Junction, this bridge—also known as Lover’s Leap Swinging Bridge—turned 100 years old in 2022, according to WQAD.

The first iteration of this bridge was built in 1886 with wooden staves and wire. This version of the bridge does not sound safe, and this was the case.

In 1902, the bridge was rebuilt with wooden planks and stilts.

Unfortunately, this did not last. In 1920, the Swinging Bridge collapsed while two brothers were on it; fortunately, they both survived.

Finally, on the third time (which turned out to be the charm), it was rebuilt for good in 1922.

The bridge is named after its knack to swing left and right while people walk on it. Engineers check the bridge every year, and city officials agree it is safe.

The Swinging Bridge spans 262 feet and lies along Highway 92.

Jog or walk?

Jog. I would sprint due to my fear of heights, but since this puppy swings back and forth, I must take it slower.

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Black Hawk Bridge

Waukon Standard

Tucked away in the northeast corner of the Hawkeye State, the Black Hawk Bridge is old but beautiful.

Still used by vehicles to cross the Mississippi between Lansing and Crawford County, Wisconsin, it originally operated as a toll bridge until 1945, when floating ice damaged it, according to Decorah Newspapers.

This “riveted cantilever through truss” bridge spans 1,285 feet over the Mississippi River and a total of 1,735 feet from end to end, and rises 55 feet above water.

It will be around a couple more years before it is replaced by the end of 2025, according to the Waukon Standard. (Fortunately, if you do not get the chance to check it out, the new bridge will look like the original one.)

Jog or walk?

Jog. If I sprint, I am going to be winded due to the length. The tough part will be avoiding traffic on this narrow piece of infrastructure.

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Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge


But this isn’t just an Eastern Iowa bridges post.

The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge crosses the Missouri River and opened in 2008, according to the City of Council Bluffs.

Built in collaboration between Council Bluffs, Omaha, the Iowa DOT, and Nebraska DOT, it is 3,000 feet long, cable-stayed, and a beautiful s-curve. It’s also the first pedestrian bridge built between two states!

The bridge is named after former Nebraska governor and U.S. Senator Bob Kerry, who was instrumental in obtaining a $19 million federal earmark for its construction, according to Rails to Trails.

According to Visit Omaha, the bridge goes by “Bob,” and it has an active Instagram and Twitter account.

Bob the Bridge also lights up the Omaha and Council Bluffs night with programmable controls allowing multiple colors, brightness, and timing, according to the Iowa DOT.

Jog or walk?

Walk. This bridge provides a beautiful view of the river, Council Bluffs, and Omaha. It will be worth the slow pace.

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High Trestle Trail Bridge

Courtesy Polk County

Rising 13 stories above central Iowa, this one-half mile pedestrian bridge spans the Des Moines River between Madrid and Woodward.

What used to be a railroad bridge for the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad Company, and later Union Pacific Railroad, was purchased by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation (INHF) in 2005.

With its unique look and special lighting, it has six overlook spots to look at the beautiful central Iowa landscape. It is also the fifth-largest trail bridge in the world, according to Polk County.

According to INHF, the Union Pacific needed to reuse the steel I-beams and removed the bridge decking for its new bridge in Boone. This meant what was to become the High Trestle Trail Bridge was left with 22 massive, 130 feet tall concrete piers, leaving “a giant chasm across the Des Moines River.”

Fortunately, after years of fundraising along with millions in federal dollars, the bridge opened in 2011 and Iowans have walked across it ever since.

Jog or walk?

Walk. I have sauntered over this bridge plenty of times, and it will not shake like the Swinging Bridge. Plus, the view is gorgeous.

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Roseman Covered Bridge


Like ranch with pizza or Busch Light on tap at every bar, an Iowa bridge list is not complete until there is a covered bridge from Madison County on it.

While now is not the time to dissect the Clint Eastwood or Meryl Streep love angle, these bridges are an important part of Madison County. There are many to choose from, but the Roseman Covered Bridge is one of the more important ones.

This famed bridge is 107 feet in length and still sits in its original location, according to the Madison County Chamber and Welcome Center. Built in 1883, it was renovated in 1992 at a cost of $152,515.

For the book and movie buffs: This is the bridge Robert Kincaid asks for when he stops at Francesca Johnson’s home for directions, and where Johnson leaves a note inviting him to dinner.

For the ghost hunters, it’s also considered haunted: In 1892, after being trapped by two sheriff’s posses, a county jail escapee rose up straight through the roof of the bridge, uttered a wild cry, and disappeared.

“He was never found, and it was decided that anyone capable of such a feat must be innocent,” the Chamber recounts.

Jog or walk?

Walk. I am not scared. I am a simple man for a simple bridge.


By Sean Dengler

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