16 votes

High Trestle Trail Bridge (2010)


Remaining supports from former main span

Photo taken by J. Reid

BH Photo #145714


Street View 


Written by Dylan VanAntwerp

Construction of the massive Madrid Trestle commenced in the early 1970s at taxpayer expense as part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Saylorville Reservoir project. The bridge was designed to replace an older steel trestle that was just to the north of the current bridge. This older bridge had steel supports and concrete footing pads and was not designed for the higher water levels that would come from damning the Des Moines River downstream. The new bridge was a modern DPG bridge with concrete piers designed to accommodate the higher water levels envisaged from creation of the new lake. The bridge was completed ca. 1973, at which point the older bridge was demolished, except for the western concrete abutment that was left in place.

The 1970s were a turbulent period for Iowa's railroads, and the Madrid Trestle would be caught up in the collapse of one the state's major carriers, the Milwaukee Road. The rail line running atop the bridge was the Milwaukee Road's E/W Chicago to Omaha mainline, and by the 1970s the railroad was in bad shape. Mismanagement and financial fraud left the railroad in such shape that a once profitable system was pushed into filing for bankruptcy in 1977. A desperate mass-abandonment was filed in 1980 as the railroad attempted to retreat to a financially strong core system. Thousands of miles of railroad were abandoned, including the entire Pacific Extension. Several lines in Iowa were also abandoned, including the E/W mainline over the Madrid Trestle.

More than half of the former mainline across Iowa would be torn out, but the Madrid Trestle would be saved from immediate abandonment. The Chicago and Northwestern Railway would step in to buy a small piece of the former MILW mainline, including the Madrid Trestle. Traffic was never very great, and dwindled over the years. Union Pacific would take over the CNW in 1995, and by the early 2000s, the only traffic on the line consisted of a few short locals to Woodward. Lack of traffic would cause the line to be abandoned completely in 2003, and the bridge deck would be removed in 2004 for reuse in construction of the new Kate Shelley Bridge at Boone.

However, this would not be the end for the bridge. The towering piers would stand alone for just six years before the builders of the new High Trestle Trail would make magnificent re-use of them for a new bike bridge that would be the center point of the system. Even the old abutment from the original steel trestle would be refurbished as a lookout point to view the new bridge. Re-christened High Trestle Trail Bridge, it now stands as a beautiful example of rail to trail conversions, and will wow bicyclists and pedestrians with incredible views for years to come.


Precast concete girder bridge over Des Moines River on High Trestle Trail
Boone County, Iowa
Open to pedestrians, with new deck built on original bridge piers
Built 2010
- Cramer & Associates, Inc. of Grimes, Iowa (Contractor)
- RDG Dahlquist Art Studio of Des Moines, Iowa (Art Installation)
- Shuck-Britson, Inc. of Des Moines, Iowa (Designer)
Concrete deck girder
Also called
High Trestle Trail - Des Moines River High Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+41.86680, -93.86895   (decimal degrees)
41°52'00" N, 93°52'08" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
15/427885/4635352 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Inventory number
BH 43294 (Bridgehunter.com ID)

Update Log 

  • April 14, 2018: New Street View added by Luke
  • July 16, 2017: New photos from Daniel Barnes
  • February 25, 2017: New photos from Daniel Barnes
  • February 3, 2016: Updated by Luke: Added builders
  • December 27, 2015: New photos from Charles Kuehn
  • June 2, 2015: New photos from Kevin Skow
  • October 6, 2013: New photos from Dylan VanAntwerp
  • October 5, 2013: Essay added by Dylan VanAntwerp
  • September 4, 2013: Updated by Jason Smith: Changed the name of the bridge
  • August 20, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Edited status as the piers were reused.
  • August 20, 2012: Updated by Daniel Hopkins: Added category "Railroad"
  • June 24, 2012: Updated by Luke Harden: Added build date
  • September 12, 2011: Updated by Luke Harden: Superstructure replaced to make High Trestle Trail bridge
  • July 29, 2011: Updated by Luke Harden: Updated info, marked bridge as replaced and it's piers have been reused.
  • May 1, 2011: New photo from Benjamin Cole
  • February 19, 2010: Updated by J.R. Manning: Added GPS Coordinates per To-Do List
  • August 28, 2009: Added by Nathan Morton

Related Bridges 


  • Nathan Morton - morton890 [at] yahoo [dot] com
  • J.R. Manning - thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net
  • Benjamin Cole - mountainjam99 [at] gmail [dot] com
  • Luke
  • Youtube - High Trestle Trail
  • Flickr
  • Jacob P. Bernard
  • Flickr
  • Jason Smith - flensburg [dot] bridgehunter [dot] av [at] googlemail [dot] com
  • Dylan VanAntwerp - dylan_vanantwerp [at] live [dot] com
  • Kevin Skow - weatherbum [at] hotmail [dot] com
  • Charles Kuehn
  • Daniel Barnes


High Trestle Trail Bridge
Posted July 2, 2013, by Andrew

The bridge was abandoned by the Milwaukee Road around 1980 when they were going into bankruptcy and abandoned their mainline across Iowa. However, it was used for many years by the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad and then sparingly by the Union Pacific after they took over the CNW. There were trains crossing here up through 2002, but they were very rare and only went to Woodward.

Woodward Rail Bridge
Posted June 9, 2011, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)

Hey Luke, check out the goings on next week up in Winneshiek with The Upper Bluffton Bridge. Would love to see you there as we try to save another historic bridge from becoming yard art.

I love the Mississippi and spend as much time over there as possible, road trip in the fall for sure.

Woodward Rail Bridge
Posted June 8, 2011, by Julie Bowers (jbowerz1 [at] gmail [dot] com)


I saw that bridge on the news. Wild looking for a new thing. Too bad people gotta muck that up.

On another note, want to go bridge spotting. I see you are here in Iowa. Are you an Engineer? June 14 is dismantle day in Winneshiek County, but there are some bridges closer to home that we are looking at too.


Woodward Rail Bridge
Posted April 30, 2011, by Andy W (zzjitterzz [at] yahoo [dot] com)

Now reopened as the High Trestle Trail Bridge

Woodward Rail Bridge
Posted October 2, 2010, by Andy W (zzjitterzz [at] yahoo [dot] com)

The bridge wasn't so much as "demolished" as it was re-purposed- UP used the steel spans on the new Kate Shelley bridge further upriver.

Woodward Rail Bridge
Posted March 26, 2010, by J.R. Manning (thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

Not as much as that pic of the tunnel that's above your post in the Forum.

Woodward Rail Bridge
Posted March 26, 2010, by Anthony Dillon (spansaver [at] hotmail [dot] com)

I thought they represented a designer on some kind of hallucinogen.

Woodward Rail Bridge
Posted March 26, 2010, by J.R. Manning (thekitchenguy [at] sbcglobal [dot] net)

Did anyone else scratch their head while looking at the, um, decor of the bridge on the new Ankeny to Woodward Trail bridge?

I found the website Jason referred to. Apparenly, the area was once noted for coal mining. Monoliths at the bridge portals will depict seams of coal embedded in limestone. The cribbing represents the supports built into mine shafts.

On a personal note, I think it's terrific that the old piers are being utilized. As for the cribbing? I can do without it, thanks.

By the way, the trail has been renamed the "High Trestle Trail." After all, the piers stand about 130 feet above the Des Moines River Valley.

You can view the site here: http://a2wtrail.org/

Info on the bridge is here: http://a2wtrail.org/dmrb.html

Construction has already begun and there is a gallery of work-in-progress photos on the site.

Woodward Rail Bridge
Posted March 26, 2010, by Jason (jgormley [at] southslope [dot] net)

Interesting story about this bridge. There is a trail group that rail-banked this line from Des Moines to Woodward, and their deal with the UP included this bridge. Part of the deck of this bridge (dual track) was taken a re-used as part of the new Kate Shelly Bridge near Boone. There is a plan for the supports to be re-used for the Woodward to Ackney Trail as the main 9river bridge.

The pictures attached are from the bike trails site.

Woodward Rail Bridge
Posted September 1, 2009, by The Independent Rage (theindependentrage [at] live [dot] com)

That bridge was really high in the air, it appears. In that regard, it kind of reminds me of the original railroad bridge in St. Charles, Missouri that opened in 1871 (and I believe was demolished in the 1930's) as the second bridge over the Missouri River.