4 votes

Houghton-Hancock Bridge


Houghton-Hancock Bridge

Photo taken by C Hanchey in August 2011


BH Photo #208091

Street View 



Play video on YouTube


Built by the State of Michigan and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in cooperation with the Copper Range Railroad and the Duluth, South Shore and Atlantic Railroad. The double-deck, vertical lift bridge originally carried vehicular traffic on the top deck and railroad traffic on the bottom deck. Rail traffic ceased in 1982. Today the vertical-lift span sits in the intermediate level nine months out of the year while vehicular traffic crosses the old railroad deck allowing most small boats to pass under the bridge. In the winter the bridge is lowered and made accessible to snowmobiles and skiers, while vehicles cross on the upper deck.


Vertical lift bridge over Portage Lake on US 41 between Houghton and Hancock
Houghton, Houghton County, Michigan
Open to traffic
Built 1960 by the American Bridge Division of the U.S. Steel Co.
- American Bridge Co. of New York
- Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad (MILW)
- Copper Range Railroad (COPR)
- Soo Line Railroad (SOO)
Vertical lift
Length of largest span: 269.0 ft.
Total length: 1,310.1 ft.
Deck width: 53.8 ft.
Vertical clearance above deck: 14.2 ft.
Also called
Portage Lake Bridge
Approximate latitude, longitude
+47.12391, -88.57405   (decimal degrees)
47°07'26" N, 88°34'27" W   (degrees°minutes'seconds")
Approximate UTM coordinates
16/380609/5220135 (zone/easting/northing)
Quadrangle map:
Average daily traffic (as of 2015)
Inventory numbers
MINBI 31131012000B010 (Michigan bridge number on the National Bridge Inventory 2010 and before)
MINEW 03380 (Michigan bridge number on the National Bridge Inventory 2011 and later)
BH 20056 (Bridgehunter.com ID)
Inspection report (as of May 2018)
Overall condition: Fair
Superstructure condition rating: Fair (5 out of 9)
Substructure condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Deck condition rating: Satisfactory (6 out of 9)
Sufficiency rating: 44.9 (out of 100)
View more at BridgeReports.com

Update Log 

  • July 7, 2022: Updated by Nathan Holth: ASCE Landmark, as of 2022
  • March 6, 2020: New photo from Chester Gehman
  • February 28, 2020: New photo from Geoff Hubbs
  • November 20, 2015: New video from Douglas Butler
  • October 21, 2015: New photo from Gene Smania
  • November 28, 2014: Updated by Luke: Added categories "Copper Range Railroad", "Rail-to-trail", "Open to Snowmobiles"
  • October 5, 2014: New photo from Douglas Butler
  • November 21, 2013: New Street View added by J.P.
  • October 28, 2013: Photo imported by Roger Deschner
  • August 25, 2013: New photo from J.R. Manning
  • March 13, 2011: New photos from Robert Thompson

Related Bridges 



Houghton-Hancock Bridge
Posted October 23, 2013, by Louie DePuydt (ldepuydt [at] charter [dot] net)

A freighter just unloaded road salts here in Hancock, MI a couple of weeks ago. I heard on the radio that that specific boat wouldn’t fit through the Portage Lake Bridge. Please, would you tell me why that is? Louie

Portage Lake Bridge
Posted April 23, 2011, by Gene Smania

Photo taken September 1993. Houghton is to left, Hancock is to right in photo.

Portage Lake Bridge
Posted March 13, 2011, by Robert Thompson

Excellent! I was hoping somebody could supply some photos of this remarkable bridge.

It is my understanding that when it was built, it was the largest vertical lift bridge at the time.

Portage Lake Bridge
Posted March 13, 2011, by Gene Smania

Upper and lower decks could both carry vehicles even tho lower deck had tracks for trains. By leaving the lower deck raised to the upper level smaller boats could pass thru the span without having to lift the bridge. They lowered the span when a train needed to cross and vehicles could still cross on the upper level. For large ships they had to raise the span and stop both the trains and vehicles. Photos are mine, taken July 1985.