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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge
NE-14/SD-37 Missouri River Highway Crossing
Niobrara, NE

Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge

• Structure ID: NBI S014 20330
• Location: River Mile 841 (Approximate)
• River Elevation: 1,209 Feet
• Highway: NE-14, SD-37
• Daily Traffic Count: 725 (2004)
• Bridge Type: Steel Girder, Concrete Deck
• Length: 2,953 Feet
• Width: 34 Feet, 2 Lanes
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable
• Height Above Water: ???
• Date Built: August 29, 1998
2008 was a big year for the village of Niobrara, Nebraska. As the home of the Ponca, 2008 was the 100th anniversary of the passing of Chief Standing Bear, and the 10th anniversary of the bridge that carries the Chief's name.

The bridge is a large steel girder structure nearly 3,000 feet in length. The north end lands on top of a rock cliff that is over 100 feet above the river level, resulting in a series of very tall bridge piers. There is a small park located on the South Dakota end of the bridge that serves as a great overlook point for the bridge. The photo above was shot from that overlook.

Prior to the bridge being built, there was a ferry crossing at this location. The ferry boat was not a great option since it had problems with sandbars during low water, and problems with navigation during high water, plus it could not sail when the river was frozen. The approach road on the South Dakota side was steep and difficult, while the approach on the Nebraska side was connected to the mainland by a several mile long narrow gravel road that was often muddy and was flooded in the spring. The bridge is a huge improvement for travelers.

Standing Bear was Chief of the Ponca people when they were forced to move to a reservation in Oklahoma in 1876. They arrived too late in the season to plant crops, and there was no wildlife to hunt. Many people died, including Standing Bear's son. Standing Bear wanted to bury his son overlooking the Missouri River by their native home. When the Chief and his party arrived at a reservation near Omaha, they were arrested. Two Omaha attorneys petitioned the courts to issue a writ of habeas corpus to prevent Standing Bear from being returned to Oklahoma against his will. The US Government argued that habeas corpus only applied to people, and the Ponca were not considered people. The issue went to US District Court, where it was ordered that Chief Standing Bear and the Ponca Indians were indeed human being and were free people in the eyes of the law. The Department of the Interior backed down and returned a large piece of land in Knox County, Nebraska, to the Ponca people. Chief Standing Bear spent several years of his life traveling the US speaking on behalf of Indian rights.

Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge
The photo above is a view when traveling of just entering the bridge from the north side, leaving South Dakota and heading into Nebraska. Notice the small patch of bare dirt on the very far right hand side of the photo down and along the bank of the main river channel. This is the location of the old ferry landing on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River. I was able to locate a road heading out of the small town of Niobrara that lead to this landing. The following two photos are views from the ferry landing and the access road.

Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge
Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge
The two photos above are views from a public area located in the middle of the river flats.

The five photos below are views of a typical river crossing when traveling from south to north starting in Nebraska and ending in South Dakota.

Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge
Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge
Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge
Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge
Chief Standing Bear Memorial Bridge

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