Chicago River Movable Bridges

View Exhibit map

The historic Chicago River was a key element in the rise of Chicago from a sleepy lakefront town to the metropolis and major transportation hub that it is today.

The river seems to be most widely known for being dyed green for the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and is also known for having its direction reversed at the beginning of the 20th Century. The Chicago River flows backwards, away from its mouth at Lake Michigan, and the river is actually higher than the lake. A lock raises and lowers watercraft that enter and leave the river. Despite the St. Patrick's Day dye job, the river is naturally a greenish hue, caused by the clay that forms the river bed and natural algae growth. Some buildings along the river use similar green hues in their fasçades to pay homage to the river.

Lake Street Bridge Randolph Street Bridge Washington Street Bridge Madison Street Bridge Monroe Street Bridge Adams Street Bridge Jackson Boulevard Bridge Image Map
Looking south at the South Branch of the Chicago River. In this photo, you can see the Lake Street, Randolph Street, Washington Street, Madison Street, Monroe Street, Adams Street and Jackson Boulevard bridges. The Lake Street Bridge is a double deck bridge, the upper level carries the "L" Lake Street Division (Green Line) across the Chicago River. On the south and east sides of the river (on the left side) is Wacker Drive, itself one long bridge that follows the river. The tall building on the right is the Boeing World Headquarters, it occupies the air space rights above the odd-numbered tracks that lead to Union Station. A similar air space is on the south side of Union Station where the even-numbered tracks enter the station.

Hover over a bridge to see the name, click on the bridge to be taken to its page.

38 movable bridges span the river today, down from a high of 52 movable bridges that once crossed the north, south and main branches of the Chicago River. The bridges include trunion bascule, Scherzer rolling lift, swing bridges and vertical lift bridges.

Franklin/Orleans Street Bridge Wells Street Bridge La Salle Street Bridge Clark Street Bridge Dearborn Street Bridge State Street Bridge Wabash Avenue (Irv Kupcinet) Bridge Image Map
The Main Branch of the Chicago River, looking east, toward Lake Michigan. The large building on the left is the Merchandise Mart. In this photo, you can see a portion of the Orleans/Franklin Street Bridge, the Wells Street, LaSalle Street, Clark Street, Dearborn and State Street bridges, and you can just see the south control tower of the Wabash Avenue (Irv Kupcinet Bridge.) From there, the river turns slightly north before resuming its eastward journey to Lake Michigan. Like the Lake Street Bridge, the Wells Street Bridge carries the L (Brown Line) across the Chicago River.

In 1853, an excusion boat called the SS Eastland capsized and rolled over at its mooring at the Clark Street Bridge. 844 souls perished in the disaster, most of the vicitims trapped below deck as the ship rolled over. A memorial marker is placed at the spot.

A 1908 railroad bridge, parallel to the Kinzie Street Bridge, is fixed in the open position, a Chicago historical landmark. The Galena & Chicago Union Railroad built a pontoon bridge at the location in 1852, the first railroad bridge to span the Chicago River. The original was replaced with a swing bridge that was too fragile, and it was replaced by another swing bridge in 1898. The Army Corps of Engineers ordered all the swing bridges in the North Branch removed to clear river navigation, so the current single-leaf, single track bascule bridge was built. The Galena & Chicago Union Railroad was the precusor of the Chicago & Northwestern Railway. (The C&NW carried the transcontinental railroad from Chicago to Council Bluffs, Iowa where it met up with the Union Pacific.) The bridge in question once carried tracks that served the Merchandise Mart, continuing below the massive building to Navy Pier. Long abandoned, the only freight carried by the bridge in recent years served the printing facilites of the Chicago Sun-Times until 2001.

Kinzie Street Bridge Kinzie Street C&NW Bridge Image Map

No longer used, this bridge is a Chicago Historic Landmark and remains in place, fixed in the open position.

After the paper moved its printing operation, the line was abandoned and the bridge parked in a permanently open position. Because of the historical significance of the G&CU Railroad and the C&NW Railway in Chicago's development, the bridge was declared a Chicago landmark in 2007.

Kinzie Street Bridge Kinzie Street C&NW Bridge Franklin/Orleans Street Bridge Wells Street Bridge Image Map

Wolf Point is one of the most valuable pieces of real estate in downtown Chicago. Several developments have been planned for this location, none have come to fruition. You can see four bridges in this photo, taken from the Lake Street Bridge. From the left, you can see the Kinzie Street Bridge, C&NW Bascule Bridge, Franklin-Orleans Street Bridge and Wacker Drive. Above Wacker Drive, you can just make out the truss of the Wells Street Bridge.


18th Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1967
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on 18th Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Adams Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1927; rehabilitated 1996
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Adams Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Ashland Avenue Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1938
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Ashland Avenue in Chicago
Open to traffic

Ashland Avenue Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1936; rehabilitated 1993
Bascule bridge over North Branch Chicago River on Ashland Avenue in Chicago
Open to traffic

BOCT South Branch Chicago River Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1930
Abandoned warren through truss bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Baltimore & Ohio Chicago Terminal Railroad
Derelict/abandoned

Canal Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1948
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Canal Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Cermak Road Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1906; rehabilitated 1997
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Cermak Road in Chicago
Open to traffic

Chicago Avenue Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1914
Bascule bridge over North Branch Chicago River on Chicago Avenue in Chicago
Open to traffic

Clark Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1929; rehabilitated 1985
Bascule bridge over Main Branch Chicago River on N. Clark Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Columbus Drive Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1982
Bascule bridge over Main Branch Chicago River on Columbus Drive in Chicago
Open to traffic

Congress Parkway Bridges (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1956; Rehabilitated 2010-2012
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Congress Parkway in Chicago
Open to traffic

Cortland Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1901-02
Double-leaf bascule bridge over North Branch Chicago River on W. Cortland Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Dearborn Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1963
Bascule bridge over Main Branch Chicago River on Dearborn Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Division Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1904; rehabilitated 1992
Bascule bridge over Chicago River North Branch Canal on Division Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Franklin Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1920; rehabilitated 2002
Bascule bridge over Main Branch Chicago River on Franklin Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Grand Avenue Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1913; rehabilitated 1974
Bascule bridge over North Branch Chicago River on Grand Avenue in Chicago
Open to traffic

Halsted Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1934; rehabilitated 1988
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Halsted Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Harrison Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built ca. 1960
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Harrison Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Jackson Blvd. Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1916
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Jackson Blvd. (original Rte 66)in Chicago
Open to traffic

Kinzie Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1909; rehabilitated 1999
Bascule bridge over North Branch Chicago River on Kinzie Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Kinzie Street C&NW Railway Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1908; Abandoned ca. 2001; Declared Chicago Landmark 2007
Warren through truss bridge over North Branch Chicago River on Union Pacific Railroad (Formerly C&NW)
Closed to all traffic

Lake Shore Drive Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1937
Double-deck bascule bridge over Main Branch Chicago River on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago
Open to traffic

Lake Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1916
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Lake Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

LaSalle Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1928
Bascule bridge over Main Branch Chicago River on N. LaSalle Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Loomis Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1904; rehabilitated 1976
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Loomis Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Madison Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1922; rehabilitated 1994
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Madison Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Michigan Avenue Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1920
Bascule bridge over Main Branch Chicago River on Michigan Avenue in Chicago
Open to traffic

Monroe Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1919
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on W. Monroe Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

North Avenue Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1907
Double-leaf bascule through truss bridge over North Branch Chicago River on North Avenue in Chicago
Replaced by a modern bridge

North Halsted Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1955
Bascule bridge over North Branch Chicago River on Halsted Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

North Halsted Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1909
Bascule bridge over North Branch Chicago River Canal on N. Halsted Street in Chicago
Demolished. Replacement Under Construction.

Ohio Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1961
Bascule bridge over North Branch Chicago River on Ohio Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Old Van Buren Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1895 to replace a swing bridge dating to 1872; replaced by current bridge in 1956
Lost Pony truss bridge over Chicago River on Van Buren Street
Replaced by a new bridge

Randolph Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1984
Twin-leaf bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Randolph Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Roosevelt Road Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1928; rehabilitated 1994
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Roosevelt Road in Chicago
Open to traffic

St. Charles Air Line Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built in 1919, original length was 260 ft. -- later shortened to 220 ft. in 1930
Railroad bascule bridge over the Chicago River near downtown Chicago
Open to traffic

State Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1949
Twin-leaf bascule bridge over Main Branch Chicago River on State Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Van Buren Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1956
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Van Buren Street in Chicago
Open to traffic

Wabash Avenue Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1930
Bascule bridge over Main Branch Chicago River on Wabash Avenue in Chicago
Open to traffic

Washington Blvd Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1913
Bascule bridge over South Branch Chicago River on Washington Blvd in Chicago
Open to traffic

Webster Avenue Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1916; rehabilitated 1993
Bascule bridge over North Branch Chicago River on Webster Avenue in Chicago
Open to traffic

Wells Street Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1922, rehabilitated 2013
Double-leaf bascule bridge over Main Branch Chicago River on N. Wells Street and CTA 'L' in Chicago
Open

Wilson Avenue Bridge (Cook County, Illinois)
Built 1913; rehabilitated 1993
Girder bridge over North Branch Chicago River on Wilson Avenue in Chicago
Open to traffic