12 votes

Black Hawk Bridge



Photo taken Summer 1995 by Joe Elliott for the Historic American Engineering Record

BH Photo #101696



The following excerpts are from a report written by the Historic American Engineering Record for the Iowa Department of Transportation between the summers of 1995 and 1996.

"Then, as now, the bridge consisted of a three-span cantilevered through truss of approximately 1,127', comprised of two cantilevered units of about 415' and one suspended span of about 297'. Each cantilevered unit consists of an anchor arm of about 237' with a cantilever of about 178'. The two cantilevers and the susepended span provide a channel crossing of about 653'. The cantilevered units are carried by concrete piers supported by foundation piles. The bridge was originally about 25' wide with an apprioximately 22' roadway. The original bridge floor was of sheet asphalt plank on treated timber plank supported by steel beams. Acording to the Prospectus issued in 1931 to obtain financing, the bridge was designed to accomodate 2,300 vehicles per hour with a maximum vehicle load of 30 tons. Pictures provided by The Book of the Black Hawk Bridge, a promotional document produced for the dedications ceremony in 1931, indicate that the entire bridge project, from Second Street, Lansing to the Burlington railroad tracks at the foot of the Winneshiek Slough and several smaller bridges over the Henderson, Stevens, Indian and Big sloughs. The road bed between the main span and the Wisconsin bluffs was paved with crushed stone. There were no approach spans on the Iowa side of the river. There was a toll booth at the Iowa end of the bridge, located immediately adjacent to the southwest end.

"Although the Black Hawk Bridge does not serve any primary routes, it provides a regionally important vehicular crossing of the Mississippi River midway between La Crosse, Wisconsin and Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. According to bridge consultant Clayton Fraser, it is only one of five long-span cantliever truss bridges remaining in Iowa." "A reality! Finished!" The Book of the Black Hawk Bridge, enthused at the structure's dedication in 1931. "The Black Hawk Bridge, three quarters of a million dollars of steel and concrete, linking the states of Iowa and Wisconsin, running eastward from Lansing across the Winneshiek Bottoms to De Soto, is a reality. It is the first passenger bridge to join these two states, the result of more than a generation of dreaming and scheming, planning and promoting--and two years of actual construction." Planning for the bridge had begun in 1898 by Lansing businessmen J.P. Conway and Tom Bakeman. The two promoted the proposed structure for years as a boon to the community, eventually forming the Interstate Bridge Company in 1914 to secure a Congressional charter for the bridge. The charter, secured in 1916, was turned over to the Iowa-Wisconsin Bridge Company in late 1929. Under the direction of Des Moines financier John Thompson, the latter firm sold bridge bonds to finance construction, hired Minneapolis engineer Melvin B. Stone to design the bridge, and contracted with the McClintic-Marshall Company of Chicago to fabricate and erect the trusses. The bridge was christened the Black Hawk Bridge to honor famous Indian Chief Black Hawk. The bridge was dedicated on June 17, 1929, with the governors of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota present. Thebridge functioned as a toll structure until flooding washed out some of the approach spans over the Wisconsin bottoms in 1945. It stood unused for several years until the approaches were re-constructed and the bridge re-dedicated in May 1957. The Black Hawk Bridge now carries traffic as a free bridge, in essentially unaltered condition. The importance of the Black Hawk Bridge to commerce and transportation in northeastern Iowa can hardly be understated. The only highway bridge over the Mississippi River in the region at the time of its completion, the Black Hawk Bridge is historically significant for its role in the development of northeast Iowa. Although its design and dimensions fit within the mainstream of bridge technology of the time, the structure is technologically significant as an uncommon, large-scale example of cantilevered truss design. Few such cantilevered trusses were erected in Iowa, those primarily over the Mississippi or Missouri Rivers, and even fewer remain in use today. The Black Hawk Bridge is one of only five such long-span, cantilevered trusses in Iowa. [adapted from Fraser and McWilliams 1992]


Three-span cantilevered through truss bridge over the Mississippi River, Front Street, and DM&E Railroad on WI 82 at Lansing
Lansing, Allamakee County, Iowa, and Crawford County, Wisconsin
Open to two-lane traffic
Future prospects
At high risk for demolition and replacement. Section 106 Review in progress as of 2019.
Built 1929; rehabilitated 1955
- Industrial Engineering Co. of Minneapolis, Minnesota
- McClintic-Marshall Co. of Chicago, Illinois & Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Melvin B. Stone of Minneapolis, Minnesota (Engineer)
- Dakota, Minnesota, & Eastern Railroad (DME)
Three-span cantilevered through truss. The cantilever spans are Warren Through Trusses while the center span is a Pennsylvania through truss. Deck truss east approach spans.
Length of largest span: 652.3 ft.
Total length: 1,630.7 ft.
Deck width: 21.0 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 15.0 ft.
Also called
WI82 Mississippi River Bridge
IA9 Mississippi River Bridge
Lansing Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+43.36489, -91.21621   (decimal degrees)
43°21'54" N, 91°12'58" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/644531/4802881 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Land survey
T. 99 N., R. 3 W., Sec. 29
Average daily traffic (as of 2017)
Inventory numbers
IA 13520 (Iowa bridge number)
BH 12793 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of August 2017)
Overall condition: Poor
Superstructure condition rating: Poor (4 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 22.3 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • July 4, 2019: New photos from Roger Deschner
  • July 3, 2019: New photos from Roger Deschner
  • June 12, 2019: Updated by Nathan Holth: This bridge is likely doomed.
  • December 25, 2018: New photo from Luke
  • August 21, 2016: Updated by Christopher Finigan: Added categories "Pin-connected", "Riveted"
  • December 27, 2015: New photo from Charles Kuehn
  • January 22, 2015: Updated by Luke: Added category "Industrial Engineering Co."
  • October 23, 2013: New photo from Luke Harden
  • October 21, 2013: New Street View added by Luke Harden
  • October 21, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added city
  • July 22, 2011: Updated by Luke Harden: Added to description
  • July 30, 2010: New Street View added by Jason Smith
  • May 3, 2010: Updated by J.R. Manning: Changed design descriptions
  • April 9, 2010: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added HAER design information
  • January 13, 2010: New photos from Jason Smith



Black Hawk Bridge
Posted September 28, 2019, by Don Morrison
Black Hawk Bridge
Posted September 28, 2019, by Don Morrison


New bridge construction will be underway by 2024. There will be no rehab, which would have bought her another 20 to 30 years. Bridge must be closed by 2028, and the USACE won't let her stand unused.

What a waste.


Black Hawk Bridge
Posted July 4, 2019, by Roger Deschner (rogerdeschner [at] gmail [dot] com)

Having said this threatened bridge was one of my favorites, I figured I had to upload my own best photos of it.

Even though it crosses the state line in the middle of the river, it appears from the highway signs at its west end, that the state of Iowa considers the whole bridge to be route WI-82.

Black Hawk Bridge
Posted June 13, 2019, by Tony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

I avoid looking at these beautiful cantilevers much anymore because it feels as if they are all potentially doomed!

This one is indeed a favorite of mine as well!

Black Hawk Bridge
Posted June 12, 2019, by Nathan Holth (webmaster [at] historicbridges [dot] org)


This is one of my favorite bridges too, for the same reason: its vivid and honest display of engineering. Sadly, I also learned today this bridge is in Section 106 Review and documents presented to date indicate strong leaning toward demolition and replacement. Among the deficiencies cited perhaps the most hopeless is that apparently it is considered a hazard to navigation (boats) and when the coast guard makes such condemnations the future is usually very bleak.

Black Hawk Bridge
Posted June 12, 2019, by Roger Deschner (rogerdeschner [at] gmail [dot] com)

WI 82 has been reopened across the bottomlands approaching this bridge from the east, per https://511wi.gov/

The Black Hawk Bridge is one of my favorites, especially among Mississippi River spans. Up there with the Eads, Dubuque, both Huey Longs, and the sadly lost Savanna-Sabula bridges. How does a cantilever bridge work? Just look at the Black Hawk Bridge - it's quite obvious.

Black Hawk Bridge
Posted April 27, 2019, by Don

Closed due to concerns about the effects of high water on the bottomland road on Wisconsin side.

Black Hawk Bridge
Posted August 18, 2018, by Don Morrison

Bah. Progress sucks.

Blackhawk Bridge is perfect in this rural area.

How about they route the big trucks and RVs and motorcycles to Prairie Du Chien.

Emergency vehicles can serve their respective sides of the river. It's just lonely scenic roads through the bottoms leading to small river towns in the region anyway.

Hell, for all I care, they could even dredge a straighter channel from DeSoto to Lansing. That would remove the bend in the river to ease shipping.

Just don't take that bridge! It's been rough the last few years for my favorites list:

1. Blackhawk Bridge

2. Gilliece Bridge lost 2017

3. Wagon Wheel Bridge lost 2016

Black Hawk Bridge
Posted August 17, 2018, by Luke

The bridge, while not officially slated for demolition, is having its replacement planned:


Black Hawk Bridge
Posted June 2, 2017, by Don Morrison
Black Hawk Bridge
Posted June 2, 2017, by Don Morrison

Blackhawk bridge has reopened after being closed due to road washout(leading to a fatal accident) on the Wisconsin side.

Black Hawk Bridge
Posted October 22, 2013, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

Its also a repainting project. Tried to rephotograph the bridge during the historic bridge weekend, but the containment wrap totally ruined my photos.

Black Hawk Bridge
Posted October 21, 2013, by Don Morrison

Went to the river and was surprised to see construction going on. Apparently it's just a new bumper to keep river traffic from hitting the pier.

Sorry about poor image quality.

Black Hawk Bridge
Posted September 2, 2010, by Nathan Holth (form3 [at] historicbridges [dot] org)

This bridge is one of my favorites too. The views of this bridge from Mount Hosmer lookout are absolutely spectacular.

My understanding was the bridge was only closed for a day or two until inspectors checked the bridge for damage, found none, and reopened it. If anyone has heard otherwise, let me know.

The long-term risk of closure (and probably demolition afterward although nobody has used the word yet) remains with this bridge. The relatively low traffic volumes and dwindling funds may eventually mean that there is no money to replace or even repair the bridge and it could be closed permanently. If it is closed for too long, the coast guard will then order the demolition of the bridge, just like with the Bellaire Bridge. The Coast Guard has some stupid policy where they often try to say a bridge must be serving a function if it crosses navigable waters. No abandonments allowed. This fate may not be for many years, but I have read this in past news articles. Its an eventuality to be aware of.

Black Hawk Bridge
Posted September 2, 2010, by Anthony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

One of my personal favorites

Black Hawk Bridge
Posted September 2, 2010, by Matthew Lohry

Does anyone know the status of this bridge? It was closed on July 22, 2010, due to a MVBC (Moron Vs. Bridge Collision), and would remain closed until further notice. I certainly hope it doesn't spell the end for this bridge, as it is one of the most unusual and beautiful cantilever truss bridges on the Mississippi.

Black Hawk Bridge
Posted April 2, 2008, by bo sansing (rebelbo_28 [at] yahoo [dot] com)

this was the bridge used in the movie the straight story about the man on a riding lawnmower