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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Minnesota Headwaters Trail Bridge (North)
Minnesota River Trail Crossing
Ortonville, MN

Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (North)

• Structure ID: N/A.
• Location: River Mile 327.8.
• River Elevation: 961 Feet.
• Trail: Minnesota River Headwaters Trail.
• Bridge Type: Steel Pony Truss.
• Length: ??? Feet, ??? Foot Longest Span.
• Width: 10 Feet.
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable.
• Height Above Water: ??? Feet.
• Date Built: 2009.
The Minnesota Headwaters Trail is a 4-1/2 mile path that runs between Ortonville and the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. The trail runs through a park in Ortonville, crosses the old US-12 rainbow style bridge, follows a township road, an old railroad bed, and then follows along the north bank of the Minnesota River. The path is 10 feet wide and paved with blacktop. It is fully handicap accessible.

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.


Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (North)
The photo above is looking north across the Minnesota River at the downriver east face of the bridge as seen from the southeast corner of the structure. The photo below is the downriver east face of the bridge as seen from the south bank of the river.

Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (North)
Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (North)
These two photos are views of the downriver east face of the bridge as seen from the north side of the Minnesota River. The photo above is taken from the water level, while the photo below is a view from bridge deck level.

Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (North)
Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (North)
These two photos are looking north down the length of the bridge deck. The photo above is a view from the center of the trail, while the photo below is a view from the southeast corner of the structure. The old railroad alignment continues to the north, but the trail makes a sharp turn to the south and follows the north bank of the river rather than following the rail bed.

Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (North)
Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (North)
The photo above is looking south down the length of the bridge deck. The trail does follow the railroad alignment heading to the south. The photo below is a joint where the bridge truss is joined. The bridge sections were trucked to the site and mated prior to the bridge being lifted into place.

Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (North)

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