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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Point Douglas Drawbridge
US-10 Saint Croix River Crossing
Prescott, WI

US-10 Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI: 82010 (MN), B47004000000000 (WI).
• Location: River Mile 0.3.
• River Elevation: 675 Feet.
• Highway: US-10.
• Daily Traffic Count: 13,000 (2002).
• Bridge Type: Steel Girder With Draw Section.
• Length: 672 Feet.
• Width: 54 Feet, 4 Traffic Lanes.
• Navigation Channel Width: 160 Feet.
• Height Above Water: 20 Feet.
• Date Built: 1990.
The Point Douglas Drawbridge has an uncommon design. Most drawbridges have a large counterweight to balance the weight of the roadway sections that are lifted. That design is known as a bascule bridge. The Point Douglas Drawbridge does not use counter-weights, so it is not a bascule bridge. Rather, the end of the bridge has a large round gear on it, and matching flat gear that is operated by hydraulics. To open the bridge, the flat gear is moved, which causes the round gear to spin, which tips the bridge deck up into the air. The Point Douglas Drawbridge is the only drawbridge in the metro area.

Prior to the Point Douglas Drawbridge being completed, a lift bridge known as the Prescott Bridge carried US-10 across the Saint Croix River. The lift bridge was built in 1922. It was designed by the firm of Waddell & Harrington. Waddell was the developer and early pioneer of the lift bridge, a design that was attempted after the War Department banned swing bridges on the Chicago River, and an alternative was needed. Waddell's first bridge had mechanical problems, so he teamed with Harrington, a skilled mechanical engineer. The bridge had spans of 172 feet, 174 feet, and 192 feet. Each of these spans were through truss spans, with the 174 foot span being the lift span.

The Prescott Bridge was built by a local group of businessmen attempting to revitalize the economy of Prescott as the logging boom was winding down. While the bridge was successful and played a key part in the regional transportation system, it never brought the growth to Prescott that was hoped for. The state took over the bridge in 1946 and removed the tolls. By the mid-1960s, the bridge was becoming obsolete. Highway traffic had picked up to the point where opening the bridge caused large backups. The vertical clearance for the highway was low causing a hardship for truckers as well as an increasing number of trucks striking the bridge. Since the clearance in the down position was only 16 feet, the bridge had to be frequently operated in the summer for recreational boaters.

The state of Wisconsin identified the Prescott Bridge to be included in a program to replace high priority bridges starting in 1969. This bridge, however, never actually received funding from that program. It wasn't until 1989 that the bridge replacement was started, with the new bridge being opened in 1990. The lift bridge was removed that year, but the bridge piers remain in place acting as barricades to protect the north side of new draw bridge from boat and barge strikes.

The photo above is a view of the bridge taken from the park on the west side of the river. The park is located on a thin strip of land that separates the Saint Croix River from the Mississippi River. The BNSF Railroad lift bridge is visible on the right side of the photo. The Saint Croix joins the Mississippi just to the right of the railroad bridge. The city of Prescott, Wisconsin, is located on the east side of the river.


US-10 Bridge
The image above is a photo on a guide sign located along the riverfront in Prescott showing the old lift bridge crossing the Saint Croix River. The photo below is a view of the upstream north face of the drawbridge from the east side of the river. The concrete blocks located in the water near the bridge piers are the piers of the old lift bridge. Note that the old piers and the large pile are connected with a walkway. This walkway has an access door coming out of the side of the lift bridge machinery room.

US-10 Bridge
US-10 Bridge
The photo above is a profile view of the south face of the bridge as seen from the riverfront in Prescott on the east side of the Saint Croix River. The BNSF Railroad lift bridge is directly behind the vantage point of the photographer in this shot, with the Mississippi River being on the far side of the railroad lift bridge. The photo below is a view of the north face of the bridge as seen from the northwest corner of the structure.

US-10 Bridge
US-10 Bridge
These two photos are views of the bridge deck taken from sidewalk level. The photo above is looking east across the span towards the city of Prescott. The photo below is looking west towards Minnesota from the Wisconsin side of the bridge.

US-10 Bridge
US-10 Bridge
The photo above is the first of four photos to show a typical river crossing from the west heading east into Wisconsin. In the photo above, we are rounding a fairly sharp and tight curve at the west end of the bridge. In the photo below, we have entered the west end of the bridge.

US-10 Bridge
US-10 Bridge
In the photo above, we are entering onto the deck of the lift span. The lift span uses a steel grate as the floor of the span. The small building to the right of the roadway is the control building for the bridge. The photo below is a view where we are exiting the east end of the bridge and are heading into Wisconsin territory.

US-10 Bridge
US-10 Bridge
The photo above is looking west down the length of the bridge deck from the Wisconsin side of the river. The sidewalk on the downstream south side of the bridge is off limits to pedestrians and only allows access to the bridge tender tower. The photo below is looking west along the south face of the Point Douglas Drawbridge. The first two spans are fixed, with the moveable spans being located on the far side of the bridge tender tower.

US-10 Bridge
US-10 Bridge
The photo above is another view of the first two fixed spans on the east side of the main river channel. The large object in the water in front of the tower is a dolphin, a structure that was built to protect the bridge tower and machine room from barge strikes. The Saint Croix River typically does not see barge traffic, but Mississippi River is only a few hundred feet downstream, so lost tow boat or loose barge could still be a danger. The photo below is the east abutment. The walkway under the bridge allows easy access to the walkway on the north side of the bridge from downtown Prescott without having to cross traffic at street level.

US-10 Bridge
US-10 Bridge
These two photos are looking upstream towards the south face of the Point Douglas Drawbridge from the east shore of the Saint Croix River. The photo above was taken from the abutment of the old CB&Q railroad swing bridge, while the photo below was taken from very near the BNSF railroad lift bridge.

US-10 Bridge
US-10 Bridge
The photo above is a close view of the draw spans. The photo below is a close view of the east main bridge pier and bridge tender tower. The main bridge piers house the equipment used to lift the draw spans.

US-10 Bridge
US-10 Bridge
The mechanical room from the old lift bridge was saved and has been put on display in Mercord Mill Park on the riverfront just south of the BNSF lift bridge. The photo above is the exterior of the building. It is sitting on a section of steel from the top of the lift truss span. The photo below is the interior of the equipment room. The bridge was originally powered by a gasoline engine. That engine was replaced once while the bridge was still privately owned, and then the state of Wisconsin replaced the engine with an electric motor in the late 1940s.

US-10 Bridge
US-10 Bridge
The photo above is one of two remaining original bridge builder plates from the Prescott Bridge. Both bridge plates are attached to the outside of the mechanical room for display. The photo below is plaque that has been installed by the local historical society.

US-10 Bridge

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