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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
The 8 Bridges Road
WI-35 Chippewa River Highway Crossing
Nelson, WI

The 8 Bridges Road

The Chippewa River flows into the Mississippi River over a wide delta. The silt carried by the Chippewa creates a natural dam in the Mississippi River, which creates Lake Pepin, the largest lake in the Upper Mississippi. Highway WI-35 crosses this delta on 8 bridges. This page is a look at those 8 bridges crossing the Chippewa River delta from east to west.

 
The 8 Bridges Road

• Bridge Description: Span #1
• Bridge Location: 0.2 Miles West Of The Start Of The Crossing
• Structure ID: NBI #B0608900000000
• Length: 526 Feet
• Date Built: Built 1933, Reconstructed 1991

The 8 Bridges Road
This is the first bridge in the Chippewa River delta crossing when heading west. The bridge is built on a slight angle given that the road is still descending into the river valley. Just east of this location is the small town of Nelson. That is one end point of the Wabasha—Nelson Mississippi River crossing. The next larger town heading south along the river is Alma. When the Mississippi River floods in the Iowa/Wisconsin area, Alma is typically the first place it floods since WI-35 drops very close to river level in that location.

The 8 Bridges Road
 



The 8 Bridges Road

• Bridge Description: Span #2
• Bridge Location: 0.7 Miles West Of The Start Of The Crossing
• Structure ID: NBI #B06089900000000
• Length: 303 Feet
• Date Built: Built 1933, Reconstructed 1990

The 8 Bridges Road
This is the second bridge in the Chippewa River delta when crossing from east to west. At this time, we have fully descended into the river valley. The bridges are located at elevation 686 (feet above sea level), which means that we have dropped about 50 feet from the elevation of the town of Nelson, and we are about 300 feet below the bluffs.

The 8 Bridges Road
 



The 8 Bridges Road

• Bridge Description: Span #3
• Bridge Location: 1.2 Miles West Of The Start Of The Crossing
• Structure ID: NBI #B06090000000000
• Length: 263 Feet
• Date Built: Built 1933, Reconstructed 1991

The 8 Bridges Road
This is the third bridge when crossing the Chippewa River delta from east to west. This is the second shortest of the 8 bridges, but at the same time, it has a very well defined stream running under the bridge as opposed to swamp land or a slough. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway runs its mainline between the Mississippi River and WI-35. One can sometimes see the railroad when looking south from these bridges. The railroad followed a path that crosses more water, and requires 9 bridges to make the crossing.

The 8 Bridges Road
 



The 8 Bridges Road

• Bridge Description: Span #4
• Bridge Location: 1.4 Miles West Of The Start Of The Crossing
• Structure ID: NBI #B06090100000000
• Length: 524 Feet
• Date Built: Built 1933, Reconstructed 1990

The 8 Bridges Road
This is the fourth bridge when crossing the Chippewa River delta traveling from east to west. At 524 feet in length, this is one of the two longest of the backchannel bridges. Only the main channel span is longer (and the first bridge, which is nearly identical, is 2 feet longer than this span). The terrain under these bridges changes based on the water level. The area is swamp grass during the summer and fall. It freezes in the winter. Spring high water turns this channel back into a river, and the backwater can remain for two or three months while the water levels drop and the sloughs drain.

The 8 Bridges Road
 



The 8 Bridges Road

• Bridge Description: Span #5
• Bridge Location: 1.7 Miles West Of The Start Of The Crossing
• Structure ID: NBI #B06090200000000
• Length: 303 Feet
• Date Built: Built 1933, Reconstructed 1991

The 8 Bridges Road
This is the fifth bridge when crossing the Chippewa River delta from the east heading west. This is one of three identical bridges of 303 feet in length that are part of this river crossing. That includes bridges #2, #5, and #6. It is interesting to look at aerial photos of this area to see how the Chippewa River deposited silt into the Mississippi River. The Mississippi River has a wide channel, and when you reach Pepin, there is a very large plug of material blocking the Mississippi River channel right where the Chippewa River enters the Mississippi. This buildup of silt has created a large earthen dam that creates Lake Pepin.

The 8 Bridges Road
 



The 8 Bridges Road

• Bridge Description: Span #6
• Bridge Location: 2.0 Miles West Of The Start Of The Crossing
• Structure ID: NBI #B06090300000000
• Length: 303 Feet
• Date Built: Built 1933, Reconstructed 1990

The 8 Bridges Road
This is the sixth bridge when crossing the Chippewa River delta traveling from the east to the west. An old railroad bed crosses WI-35 near this bridge. This location, called Travino, was marked with crossbuck signs until the road was repaved in the early 2000s. This Milwaukee Road line branched off of the BNSF, and ran to Durand, where it again branched. One branch ran to Eau Claire, the other branch to Menomonie. This rail line originally branched off of the Milwaukee Road mainline on the west side of the river, and crossed the Mississippi on a pontoon bridge built in 1882. The pontoon bridge was in use until 1952. The Milwaukee Road then crossed at Winona and used the BNSF tracks to reach Travino. The branch line to Eau Claire and Menomonie was finally abandoned in 1979.

The 8 Bridges Road
 



The 8 Bridges Road

• Bridge Description: Span #7 (Main Channel)
• Bridge Location: 2.6 Miles West Of The Start Of The Crossing
• Structure ID: NBI #B06009800000000
• Length: 1,202 Feet
• Date Built: 1994

The 8 Bridges Road
This is the main channel crossing of the Chippewa River, the seventh bridge when crossing from east to west. It is by far the longest bridge of the 8. It has a very graceful hump in its backbone. The Chippewa River has a wide and deep river valley. This was formed when the river was the outlet that drained Glacial Lake Duluth some 11,000 years ago. Much of the river valley may have been cut away in only a few weeks once the lake burst through its moraine. The river channel wandered back and forth across its river valley, but its path is well established today due to modifications made during the logging area and in past attempts to keep the river navigable for 50 miles up to the city of Eau Claire.

The 8 Bridges Road
The 8 Bridges Road
 



The 8 Bridges Road

• Bridge Description: Span #8
• Bridge Location: 3.6 Miles West Of The Start Of The Crossing
• Structure ID: NBI #B46002200000000
• Length: 182 Feet
• Date Built: 1995

The 8 Bridges Road
This is the eight and final bridge when crossing the Chippewa River delta when crossing from the east heading west. This is also the shortest of the 8 bridges, and the newest of the 8 bridges. There was an earlier span, but it was replaced in 1995 rather than being rebuilt as the other backchannel spans were in 1990 and 1991. The main channel bridge was also replaced a year earlier in 1994. Notice that I did not stray too far from the roadway in shooting these photos. That is because the low areas of the Chippewa River delta are rattlesnake territory. It is inhabited by the timber rattler, and this is the only remaining Midwestern range for the smaller Massasauga rattlesnake. While Wisconsin and Minnesota are not known for venomous snakes, some areas along the river have populations of rattlesnakes.

The 8 Bridges Road

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