This is part two in our series about historic North Dakota automobile bridges. In part one, we focused on Sheyenne River crossings in southeast North Dakota. This time, we’ve photographed historic steel bridges in East-Central North Dakota, on the Sheyenne, Goose, and James Rivers.
Some of these bridges are closed and abandoned, others are still in use, and one has been restored, but they will all share the same fate without human intervention, so we’ve chosen to document them here.
Norway Bridge spans the Goose River in Traill County, about halfway between Hillsboro and Mayville, North Dakota. It’s a Pratt pony truss bridge constructed by Jardine & Anderson of Fargo and Hillsboro in 1912 at a cost of about four thousand dollars. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is considered significant because its construction by a local contractor makes it rare considering most bridges at the time were built by larger firms like Fargo Bridge & Iron Co. and other out-of-state bridge builders.
Norway Bridge was our first stop on this trip and we arrived early in the morning, when frost was still present on the timber deck. The bridge still gets frequent use — we saw several vehicles cross just in the few minutes were were there.
Viking Bridge is the oldest documented automobile bridge still-standing in North Dakota. It was built in 1885 by C.P. Jones out of Minneapolis and originally spanned the Goose River between Mayville and Portland, but in 1915, Jardine & Anderson were hired to move this bridge to its present location, about a mile and a half northwest of Portland, North Dakota, in Traill County. It served traffic until 2006, by which time it had deteriorated to the point that it was no longer safe.
In 2010, Viking Bridge was rehabilitated by architecture and engineering firm KLJ. Today there is a informative plaque on-site detailing the bridge’s history.
Washburn Township Bridge
This abandoned Washburn Township bridge was one of our favorite destinations on this trip. It spans the Sheyenne River at a spot in Griggs County, about four and a half miles east of Cooperstown, but today it has fallen into serious disrepair. There’s a dam just a few dozen feet to the southeast of this bridge, and the sound of rushing water coupled with the beautiful location make it the perfect spot to drop a line, or just dangle your toes in the river. It’s hard to imagine how someone hasn’t led an effort to turn this into a public park yet.
Tyrol Township Bridge
This Tyrol Township bridge is in Griggs County about nine miles northeast of Cooperstown. It is built from steel supplied by the Inland Steel Company of East Chicago, Indiana, a company which existed for 105 years from 1893 to 1998, when it was absorbed by a multinational. We don’t know the year of construction or builder of this bridge, so please leave a comment if you know more.
Nesheim Township Bridge
If you were to approach this bridge from the south you would travel a road that is now barely more than a tunnel through the trees as it descends into the Sheyenne Valley.
This Nesheim Township bridge (not to be confused with “Nesheim Bridge,” which is next) is in Nelson County, just over three miles south of McVille, North Dakota.
Nesheim Bridge was built in 1904 by Fargo Bridge & Iron Company, in Nesheim Township, Nelson County, about 2 1/2 miles southwest of McVille, North Dakota. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Dayton Township Bridge
Dayton Township Bridge is a tiny steel bridge on the Sheyenne River in Nelson County, about 28 miles southeast of Devils Lake. It was built sometime in the 1910s by the Fargo Bridge & Iron Company.
New Rockford Bridge
The New Rockford Bridge, on the north edge of New Rockford, North Dakota in Eddy County, was once New Rockford’s main bridge across the James River. It was built by Fargo Bridge & Iron Co. in 1904. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, partly due to its Warren truss construction, which is rare in North Dakota. Unfortunately it is now closed to vehicle traffic and falling into disrepair.
We found the scenery of the marshy wetlands along this stretch of river beautiful, but we only had to look below the bridge to see bicycles dumped in the river. It would be really nice to see a rehabilitation happen here. As with several of the other closed bridges on this list, this could be a real attraction as a fishing bridge or public park if it was just given a little TLC.
Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy