The trail crosses the Minnesota River in three places. The northernmost crossing is on a 1920-era highway bridge that has been refurbished for use as a regional trail. The southernmost crossing is inside of the wildlife refuge. The third crossing, located just southeast of the Ortonville city limits, is this newly installed steel truss bridge.
The original bridge at this location was built by the Milwaukee Road Railroad. The Milwaukee Road arrived in Ortonville in 1879. The crossing at this location supported a rail spur to a large grain mill. I have not yet learned when this spur was built. The Milwaukee Road abandoned the tracks west of Ortonville in 1982. The tracks east of the city were taken over by the Burlington Northern Railway. I have not determined when this spur was abandoned. The bridge exists on a 1991 aerial photo, but no longer exists on a 2003 aerial photo. There was also a bridge located just upstream of this location for Mill Road. That bridge does not show up on any 1960s era maps, and is not on a 1971 topographical map.
The trail bridge is a new structure, no parts of the railroad bridge were reused. The trail approaches the river from the south using the old railroad right-of-way. The trail then bends to the right and follows the north side of the Minnesota River heading downriver rather than following the old railbed. The bridge was prefabricated in a factory and trucked to the site in several sections. The sections were joined, and then the completed bridge span was lifted into place using a crane.
The photo above is a overview of the bridge setting looking north towards the Minnesota River from the Minnesota River Headwaters Trail.