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Highways, Byways, And Bridge Photography
Ponca Pipeline Bridge
Former Missouri River Pipeline Crossing
Ponca, NE

Ponca Pipeline Bridge

• Structure ID: N/A
• Location: River Mile 752.6
• River Elevation: 1,106 Feet
• Structure: Natural Gas Pipeline
• Bridge Type: Pure Suspension
• Length: 2,680 Feet (Estimated Tower To Tower)
• Width: 8 Inch Pipe (Estimated)
• Navigation Channel Width: Non-Navigable
• Height Above Water: ???
• Date Built: 1950s.
The first pipeline bridge was built across the Missouri River in this area between Ponca, NE, and Elk Point, SD, in 1932 by the Northern Natural Gas and Pipeline Company. The bridge was a pure suspension bridge supported by two towers each 132 feet tall. The center of the span was stabilized by cables that were attached to concrete pillars located on the shore on each side of the Missouri River. Over time, the river shifted its course slightly, and the pier on the South Dakota side of the river was now located directly in the middle of the river.

Due to the shifting of the river channel and flooding, the pipeline bridge was shut down and dismantled. The piers were left in place, and can been seen on aerial photos at some mapping websites. In the early 2000s, the US Coast Guard questioned the ownership of the pier that was located in the river and found that it was owned by Northern Natural Gas and Pipeline, and that since it no longer served a beneficial purpose, the pier would have to be removed. It was in fact removed during January of 2007.

A new pipeline bridge was built by Kaneb Pipeline Partners about a mile downstream at the far eastern end of Ponca State Park. The Kaneb line was built in the 1950s between southern Kansas and Geneva, Nebraska, as a 16 inch line. It was extended north to Jamestown, ND, in the 1960s.

The new pipeline bridge was the second largest pipeline bridge in the world. The Nebraska end was located high on a bluff, while the South Dakota end was located in the river flats. As a result, the South Dakota end had a tall tower, while the Nebraska end used a short A-frame to support the suspension cable. The cable and pipeline had a huge dip that carried the pipe down close to the river despite the Nebraska side being several hundred feet up on a bluff.

Eventually the fields in Kansas were played out, and the pipeline became uneconomical to operate. It has been mothballed. The pipeline bridge was taken down and removed in December, 2007 and January, 2008. The 3 photos on this page were taken in July, 2008. The top photo is looking out over the bluff where the pipeline bridge once crossed the river. The second photo is the foundation for the Nebraska tower. The dark squares are where the steel tower legs were cut off with a cutting torch. The third photo is the cut-off and capped pipeline. The final image is a view from Google Earth showing the pipeline before it was removed.

There may yet be a another pipeline story in the Ponca, Nebraska, area. A new pipeline called the TransCanada Pipeline has been approved. It is currently planned to bring crude oil down from Alberta. It will run north and south parallel to Interstate I-29, which will bring the pipeline right through the Ponca area. There has also been a new oil refinery approved for Elk Point County in South Dakota, which is on the north and east side of the river.

Ponca Pipeline Bridge
Ponca Pipeline Bridge
Ponca Pipeline Bridge

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