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

Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (South)

• Structure ID: BR06503.
• Location: River Mile 325.9.
• River Elevation: 960 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 middle crossing is on a steel truss bridge located at the site of an old railroad bridge over the river. The third crossing, located within the Big Stone Wildlife Refuge, is this newly installed steel truss bridge.

To get to this bridge, turn off of highway MN-7 at the entrance to the Auto Tour Route within the Big Stone Wildlife Refuge. Park at the trailhead on the south side of the Minnesota River. From there, walk 1-1/4 miles northwest on the trail. The bridge is located in a very interesting area. The main water flow of the Minnesota River runs down a flood diversion channel. The original channel of the Minnesota River crosses the flood diversion channel at the site of this trail bridge. There is a series of two load head dams that holds water in the diversion channel, allows water from the original channel to flow across the diversion channel, and diverts part of the water from the diversion channel into the Minnesota River channel.

The photo above is approaching the trail bridge from the south. The photo below is a view looking down the length of the trail bridge. The diversion channel is to the left of bridge.


Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (South)
Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (South)
These two photos are views of the northeast side of the bridge. The photo above is from the east corner of the structure, while the photo below is looking upstream along the Minnesota River channel. It is hard to believe that this little stream is going to require mile long bridges to cross it on the other side of the state.

Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (South)
Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (South)
The photo above is looking downstream from the bridge deck. Not only has the river channel wandered across the wildlife refuge, but it has wandered all over the Ortonville area over the past 8,000 years. The area is very flat, allowing the river to easily carve new channels, at least until the flood control projects were constructed. The photo below is the bridge plate.

Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (South)
Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (South)
These two photos are views from the northeast side of the river looking to the south. The diversion channel is on the right side of the bridge in the photo above. The photo below shows the large wings on the abutments. Given the muddy soil, the bridge would quickly was out without these wings.

Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (South)
Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (South)
These two photos are views of the upstream side of the bridge. The photo above is a view from the northwest corner of the structure, while the photo below is looking to the north from the south side of the channel. Note the steel wing dams on each side of the Minnesota River channel just upstream of the bridge. These wing dams help hold back some of the flow from the diversion channel during periods of moderately high water in an attempt to keep the water flowing into wetlands area to the south rather than flooding the river channel.

Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (South)
Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (South)
These two photos are final views of the southern of the three bridges that carry the Minnesota Headwaters Trail over the Minnesota River as we start to walk back to the trailhead. The photo below is looking north towards the southeast end of the structure. The photo above is a wider view of the scene looking northwest along the trail and the diversion channel. The original channel of the Minnesota River enters from the far left side of the photo, crosses the diversion channel, and then flows under the bridge.

Minnesota Headwater Trail Bridge (South)

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