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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
US Highway 10 — Back Channel
Mississippi River Highway Crossing
Little Falls, MN

US Highway 10 Back Channel Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI 49020
• Location: River Mile 967.2
• River Elevation: 1,107 Feet
• County: Morrison
• Highway: US Highway 10
• Daily Traffic Count: 10,200 (2004)
• Bridge Type: Precast Concrete Girder
• Bridge Length: 80 Feet, 80 Foot Longest Span
• Bridge Width: 82 Feet, 4 Lanes
• Height Above Water: 7 Feet
• Date Built: 1973
The US-10 bridge is part of a 4-lane bypass around Little Falls. The issue is not that Little Falls is such a large city that it needs a freeway bypass, but rather, Little Falls in centrally located for people traveling in a number of different directions, and the bypass keeps the through traffic off of the quiet city streets.

The main channel bridge, just a few hundred feet north on US-10, is nearly 1,000 feet long. Not so for this little back channel structure. It is only 80 feet long. While the main bridge has a number of piers and spans, this little back channel bridge crosses this branch of the Mississippi River in a single leap. It is interesting that the main channel bridge has steel girders, but this small back channel bridge has concrete girders. One would think that the bridge builders would have just ordered up 80 more feet of steel and called it good.

A Mississippi River crossing that is made up of two or more bridges in series is not all that unusual, at least not on the Upper Mississippi River, but this is the only such example north of Red Wing, Minnesota.

Update—these two bridges failed during the spring flood of 2010. Ice became lodged under the westbound bridge. This caused water to backup behind the bridge. The bridges were closed on March 17, 2010, as water started flowing around and over the bridge, eventually washing out the east approach to the structures.

After the flood cleared, MN-DOT declared these two bridges to be a total loss. A temporary fill was placed on the east end of the westbound bridge, allowing it to be reopened to traffic while the eastbound bridge was rebuilt. The new eastbound bridge was completed and opened on July 8, 2010. Traffic was moved to the eastbound bridge, allowing the westbound bridge to be removed and rebuilt. That project was completed on August 30, 2010, when all four lanes of traffic were reopened.


US Highway 10 Back Channel Bridge
The photo above is a view crossing the bridge heading westbound. The main channel structure is located just up the highway in this photo. The photo below is a view crossing the bridge heading eastbound. The photo at the top of the page is a telephoto view of the bridge looking north from a vantage point about one-half mile downstream.

US Highway 10 Back Channel Bridge
US Highway 10 Back Channel Bridge
These two photos are views of the construction project to replace these two bridges following the spring flood of 2010. The photo above is heading westbound. The old westbound bridge was temporarily open to traffic after the approach to the east abutment was filled in and paved. This allowed traffic to use highway US-10 while the eastbound bridge was being replaced. The photo below is heading eastbound. Traffic was diverted onto the old westbound bridge until the eastbound bridge was completed. Traffic was then moved to the new eastbound bridge while the westbound bridge was replaced.

US Highway 10 Back Channel Bridge

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