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John A. Weeks III
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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Twin Suspension Bridges
Historic US-18 Mississippi River Crossing At Prairie du Chien
Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

Prairie du Chien River Crossing

Prior to 1974, the river crossing was a pair of full suspension bridges. Unlike the parallel suspension bridges on I-74 in the Quad Cities, the two suspension bridges here crossed two different channels of the river, with a mile wide island between the two bridges. The above photo shows the small park that has been established on the location of the western-most approach coming into Marquette. The road is still in very good shape despite having little maintenance in over 30 years.
Prairie du Chien River Crossing
Here is a view of the western-most approach to the old bridge. Notice that it is cut out of the bluff to get some height above the river. Also notice the overlook that has been added since the old bridge was removed.
Prairie du Chien River Crossing
Here is a photo of the plaque that commemorates the old bridge.

Note—while the 1932 bridge was advertised as the first suspension bridge built over the Mississippi River, there were actually two very early suspension bridges built across Saint Anthony Falls in Minneapolis in the 1800's. Neither bridge lasted long, and both were gone over 60 years before the 1932 suspension bridge was built. These two bridges were the only suspension bridges across the Mississippi River from June 1932 until November 1935, when the first span of the current I-74 bridge was opened in Davenport, Iowa. Since that time, a twin has been built for the I-74 bridge, and two other suspension bridges have been built across the great river.

Prairie du Chien River Crossing
This is a post card that shows the main channel suspension bridge. This is the main navigation channel, and it is relatively narrow at this location despite the river itself being several miles wide in this area.
Prairie du Chien River Crossing
This is a post card that shows the east channel suspension bridge. While navigation traffic normally uses the west channel, the east channel is heavily used by recreational boaters and terminal traffic using port facilities in Prairie du Chien.
Prairie du Chien River Crossing
Here is another postcard from the early 1930s showing a view of both suspension bridges, and the causeway and trestles that connect the two structures.
Prairie du Chien River Crossing
Above is a view of the entire river crossing at Prairie du Chien, as seen from Pikes Peak State Park just south of McGregor, Iowa. Pikes Peak is one of the tallest overlooks over the Mississippi River. One can see Prairie du Chien to the north, and the Wisconsin River confluence with the Mississippi River. The main channel bridge is on the left side of the photo, while the east channel bridge is near the right side, and the twin approach bridges on the very far right side of the photo. The bridges are kind of hard to pick out of the haze, but if you put a straight edge up against the photo, not only are the bridges relatively easy to pick out, but you can see cars and trucks on the bridges. The west channel suspension bridge would have been a few hundred feet north of the main channel bridge. The crossing would then have jogged to the north a bit, placing the east channel suspension bridge a few city blocks north of the current east channel bridges. That river crossing would have met with Blackhawk Avenue, and crossed the Blackhawk Avenue Bridge.

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