Early settlers attempted to farm some of these islands, however, the frequent floods made that impractical. George Friedrich, a biology professor from the nearby Saint Cloud State University, purchased many of the Beaver Islands in 1933 to preserve them. He later donated these islands to the college. At the time, many of the islands were connected with bridges. The largest island, Sportsman Island, was connected to the mainland by a steel truss bridge. A large flood in 1939 resulted in most of the bridges being destroyed by ice chunks.
The bridge to Sportsman Island survived the flood. At some point later, the roadway to the island was abandoned. The deck was removed from the bridge, but the metal structure was left in place. A golf course was established to the south of the old bridge and a subdivision was built to the north of the structure. The bridge was more or less forgotten except by the few families who could see the bridge remains from their homes.
The bridge was rediscovered in 2009 and received a bit of local publicity. Photographer Adam Studer visited the island and photographed the bridge. His photo was used in University materials promoting a Beaver Islands photography contest.
I have been unable to obtain permission to visit the Sportsman Island Bridge from the west bank of the Mississippi River. The local residents were a bit bothered by the publicity, and I respect their rights to their privacy. The country club also would not give me permission to cross their property. As a result, I plan to visit the bridge in 2010 using a canoe. There is a boat landing 1.6 miles north of the structure.
The photos above and below are views looking southeast from Island View Drive, which branches off of Sportsmans Island near the Mississippi River on the south end of Saint Cloud. These photos, shot between homes located along the river, are the only public glimpses available of the bridge from the mainland. The bridge is totally obscured by trees in the summer time, and is only visible from this location in winter.