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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Swinging Bridge
Saint Louis River Pedestrian Crossing
Thomson, MN

Swinging Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A
• Location: River Mile 26.8
• River Elevation: 895 Feet
• Bridge Type: Steel Cable Suspended Deck
• Bridge Length: 200 Feet, 126 Foot Longest Span (Estimated)
• Bridge Width: 4 Feet
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable
• Height Above Water: 24 Feet
• Date Built: 1953, Used 1934 Abutments And Towers
Jay Cooke State Park is one of the crown jewels of the state park system within the state of Minnesota. The land around the park was acquired by the Great Northern Power Company around 1900 as part of a project to build a major hydroelectric project on the Saint Louis River. After the project was completed, the Saint Louis Power Company donated 2,350 acres of land, nearly four square miles, to be developed as a park.

The US Forest Service built the first facilities at the park, including the first Swinging Bridge in 1924. This structure featured piers built on wood cribs, and used large timber A-frames to support the suspension cable. The bridge was at the same location as the current bridge, but was only 18 feet above the water.

The Civilian Conservation Corps, one of the depression era recovery agencies, established a camp at the park in 1933 and continued to develop the facilities. They rebuilt the abutments and bridge towers with concrete and stone in 1934. A follow-on CCC camp further modified the bridge, raising it four feet in 1941. This bridge lasted until May of 1950, when it was washed out by an unusually high spring flood.

The current Swinging Bridge was built in 1953, using the 1934 stone and concrete bridge abutments and towers. The new bridge was an additional two feet higher, putting it 24 feet above the normal river level. The bridge has since been modified several times, notably in 1977 when the concrete caps were built on top of the bridge towers.

As the photos below suggest, the Swinging Bridge offers spectacular views of the Saint Louis River as it flows down the rock cascades on the bluffs along Lake Superior, falling some 577 feet between Dunlap Island in Cloquet and Saint Louis Bay. There are a number of locations in Jay Cooke State Park to see the river cascades, but most visitors to the park generally start at the Swinging Bridge. Note that any use of park facilities requires the purchase of a state park sticker. A $5 day pass is available at the park headquarters building at the head of the trail leading to the Swinging Bridge.

The photo above is looking upstream to the southwest towards the east face of the Swinging Bridge from the north bank of the Saint Louis River. The photo below is looking northeast towards the upstream west face of the structure. The bright summer sun is lighting up the north side of the river, leaving the south side in a dark shadow.


Swinging Bridge
Swinging Bridge
These two photos are looking north along the outside of the east face of the Swinging Bridge. The photo above is showing the entire span, while the photo below is a little closer view of the bridge abutment and towers on the north side of the river.

Swinging Bridge
Swinging Bridge
These two photos are views looking upstream from the bridge deck. The photo above is the southern of two channels that converge just upstream of the bridge, while the photo below is the northern channel.

Swinging Bridge
Swinging Bridge
The photo above is looking downstream to the east from the bridge deck. The river is at elevation 895 at this location, meaning that it has already dropped 284 feet from the average water level at Dunlap Island in Cloquet, but still has 293 feet to fall before reaching the level of Lake Superior. That makes this the halfway point of the cascade down the bluffs. The photo below is looking south down the length of the bridge deck.

Swinging Bridge
Swinging Bridge
The photo above, and the three that follow show a typical crossing walking north across the bridge. The photo above is the south bridge portal, showing the bridge towers and the cable anchors. The photo below is looking north between the south bridge towers down the length of the bridge deck.

Swinging Bridge
Swinging Bridge
The photo above is a view of the north bridge towers as seen from mid-span. The photo below is a close view of the wooden bridge deck and the bridge railings.

Swinging Bridge
Swinging Bridge
The photo above is a close view of the cable attachment at the southwest corner of the bridge. The photo below is an old anchor rod that is not currently in use. This might be from an older set of cables that have since been replaced, or it might be from a previous swinging bridge.

Swinging Bridge
Swinging Bridge
The photo above is a detail view of the cable attachment for one of the vertical suspension cables. The cable is simply looped over the main bridge suspension cable, and then a retainer is bolted to the main suspension cable to keep the vertical cable from sliding out of place. The photo below is a vertical cable near the center of the bridge. It doesn't have a retainer due to the main cable being nearly horizontal at this location.

Swinging Bridge
Swinging Bridge
The photo above is the northwest bridge tower where the main suspension cable loops over the tower and connects to an anchor rod on the far side of the tower. The photo below is a guide sign located on the north side of the Saint Louis River on the trail leading to the bridge.

Swinging Bridge

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