At the time this bridge was built, the Missouri River was considered to be navigable. As a result, bridges had to have a minimum clearance of 80 feet. The railroad used a lift section to meet this requirement. This bridge is unique in that it is designed to have the lift mechanism and counterweight able to be moved to a different span of the bridge in the event that the river channel shifts. The lift span was seldom used. There are reports that it was operated in 1935 to accommodate a series of barge tows headed for the Fort Peck Dam construction project. On most of these barge runs, the barges were ballasted down to ride lower in the water to allow safe passage under the bridge. The lift equipment remains intact on this bridge, having operated no more than 16 times in its life.
When built, the Snowden Lift Bridge was open only to trains. In 1926, planking was installed on the deck along with gates at each end allowing the GN to covert the bridge into a toll bridge for car and truck traffic. Tolls were 50 cents per car and 15 cents per passenger. The fairs were changed in the 1940s to be 25 cents for a motorcycle and 75 cents for trucks. Tolls were collected until 1956, when the new MT-58 bridge was built 4 miles downstream. The Snowden bridge remained open to vehicle traffic until 1985.
The Snowden Lift Bridge remains the only lift bridge within the state of Montana. It is located 3.5 miles east of the Montana and North Dakota state line. It can be accessed from a gravel road heading west off of ND-58 a mile or two south of the ND-58 river bridge. The north end still has an access road, but it appears to be posted as railroad property.