In a land so saturated with water, it is of little surprise that the Northern Wilds is dotted with numerous bridges. But many of these bridges are more than just utilitarian; with some dating back 100 years or more, several of the North Shore’s bridges have become emblematic of the area and even destinations in themselves. With fall being the perfect time for scenic hikes and drives, here are some of the best bridges to see along the way.
Aerial Lift Bridge
Perhaps the most recognizable bridge on Superior’s shores, the Aerial Lift Bridge has become an emblem of Duluth and one of the most recognizable landmarks on the North Shore. Completed in 1905, the bridge was originally designed as a transporter bridge, with a gondola that transported passengers from one side of the canal to the other. The bridge was remodeled into a lift bridge in 1929, accommodating both the increased traffic to Minnesota Point and ship traffic into and out of the canal. Today the bridge lifts thousands of times per year for both small vessels and the many lake freighters that visit the Twin Ports.
The Swinging Bridge
The Jay Cooke State Park Suspension Bridge, more commonly known as the Swinging Bridge, was built in 1934 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Spanning 220 feet across the St. Louis River, the bridge has been destroyed by floods several times, most recently in the 2012 flood event. The reconstructed bridge opened in the autumn of 2013, and its design mirrors the original suspension bridge of 1934. Connecting visitors to the state park’s many trails, the Swinging Bridge makes for a great vantage point from which to view the St. Louis River and the fall colors in this beloved park.
Crowning the falls of the Gooseberry River is a steel arch bridge used both by vehicles traversing Highway 61 and pedestrians within Gooseberry Falls State Park. A bridge has spanned this location of the Gooseberry River since 1922. By the 1990s the original bridge had deteriorated, and it was replaced with the current bridge in 1996. The lower level of the bridge is a pedestrian walkway connecting the park’s hiking trails, while the upper level of the bridge has access to the Gitchi-Gami State Trail and a plaza with information about the history of Gooseberry Falls State Park.
Seven Bridges Road
One of Duluth’s most scenic drives, Seven Bridges Road runs along Amity Creek as it flows south toward Lake Superior. The road traces back and forth over the creek numerous times, hence the multiple bridges. Seven Bridges Road was the brainchild of Samuel Snively, who would later become the longest-serving mayor of Duluth. Construction of the road began in 1899, complete with wooden bridges that quickly became unsafe. In 1912 the wooden bridges were replaced with stone bridges. Four of the original stone bridges remain, while others have been reconstructed.
Nipigon River Bridge
Along the very northern reaches of Lake Superior is the Nipigon River, and across the river is the commanding Nipigon River Bridge. While a highway bridge has been located at this site since the 1930s, the current cable-stayed bridge—the first of its kind in Ontario—was fully opened to traffic in the fall of 2018. Part of the Trans-Canada Highway, which traverses all 10 of Canada’s provinces, the 827-foot-long bridge is part of an effort to widen the highway from two lanes to four.