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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Fort Snelling Bridge (Old)
Historic MN-5 Mississippi River Crossing
Saint Paul, MN

Fort Snelling Bridge (Old)

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 845.6.
• River Elevation: 686 Feet.
• Highway: MN-5, Fort Road, West 7th Street.
• Daily Traffic Count: 0 (Bridge Has Been Removed).
• Bridge Type: Continuous Steel Arch Truss.
• Length: 960 Feet (Estimated).
• Width: 2 Traffic Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: 250 Feet (Estimated).
• Height Above Water: 80 Feet (Estimated).
• Date Built: 1909.
The Mississippi River crossing north of Fort Snelling has a long history. The area near the fort was an anchor for early settlement, while Saint Paul developed early due to being the practical northern end of where steam boats could travel. The road between Saint Paul and fort was heavily traveled. The government opened a cable style ferry boat as early as 1844. According to the text on the historical marker, that ferry remained in operation until 1880.

The Omaha Road railroad established a station at Fort Snelling around 1870, but the railroad crossed the Minnesota River, not the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River crossing for trains was a few miles upriver.

The first bridge built across the Mississippi at this location was the Fort Snelling High Bridge. It was a rickety iron wagon bridge. It was built on tall masonry piers, and was supported by a web of beams and cables. The wagon deck sat on top of this truss. This bridge was finished in 1880. It could not handle the load of trolley cars, so it was removed and replaced in 1909.

The second bridge was the Fort Snelling Bridge. It was a very sturdy steel arch truss bridge. It had abutments cut into the rock on either side of the river gorge, one large pier at the north edge of the river, and two smaller piers at the edges of the gorge. The main structure of the bridge formed two large arches that towered 80 feet above the water level. Short deck truss sections connected the abutments to the main structure on each end of the bridge.

The Fort Snelling Bridge served its purpose well. It was able to adapt from street cars and Model T cars to modern buses and heavy semi-truck traffic. A new bridge, the current Fort Road Bridge, was built in 1965. The Fort Snelling Bridge was removed after the new bridge was opened.

When the Fort Snelling Bridge was removed, the abutment on the north side of the river, which was cut into solid rock, was left as-is. The site itself was left as-is for nearly 40 years. Then in the mid-2000s, the City of Saint Paul developed a small park that incorporated the bridge abutment. They built a wall around the edge of the abutment using the same kind of cut stone as used in the pier. A terrace was built on top of the abutment, and a seating area was installed. The result is a beautiful little park that has a great overlook where you can watch bridge traffic, airplanes, Fort Snelling, and river traffic on both the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. The City of Saint Paul Parks Department deserves great kudos for making something so nice out of what appeared to be nothing, and built something that connects both the past and the future in one location.

The photo above is a view of the north abutment of the Old Fort Snelling Bridge. The vantage point is the entrance road to Hidden Falls Regional Park.

Fort Snelling Bridge (Old)
The photo above is a view of the top of the bridge abutment, which has been converted into a terrace and scenic overlook. The buildings on the far side of the river are part of Fort Snelling, with the historic fort being on the left of the photo. The photo below is another view of the north bridge abutment, this time, taken in the autumn after the leaves have fallen. This allows the entire structure to be seen.

Fort Snelling Bridge (Old)
Fort Snelling Bridge (Old)
The photo above is the sign posted at the park located on top of the bridge abutment. The text tells the history of of the river crossing. The photo below is a public domain image from a 1915 era postcard that shows the bridge shortly after it was built.

Fort Snelling Bridge (Old)

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Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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