November 7, 2013 | Volume 118, Issue No. 45

Swinging bridge reopens

The swinging bridge at Jay Cooke State Park near Carlton and Thompson was reopened on Friday, November 1.

Lois Johnson
After being destroyed in the June 2012 flood, the Jay Cooke State Park swinging bridge has been reopened.

The bridge had been destroyed in the June 2012 flood, although the stone support pillars survived the massive flood.

Gary Hoeft, the park manager, said, "The park was first promoted in 1870 travel guides that encouraged visitors to come and look at the rock formations in the park."

Kristine Hiller, of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), went on to tell the history of the swinging bridge.

"The first swinging bridge was built in 1924," she said. "It was 18 feet above the surface of the river. It was made of wood. Signs warned that only five people could be on the bridge at one time. The people could not run, jump or swing the bridge."

This is the fifth time that the bridge has had to be replaced after flood waters damaged it.

The second time the bridge had been destroyed the conservation corps built the stone pillars that still support the bridge. That was in 1940.

In 1950, the bridge was again destroyed by the second largest flood. The bridge was raised as it was rebuilt.

"It's all about the journey," said Hiller. "Generations of people have held their breaths as they went across the bridge. It was often called the 'Singing Bridge.'

"On June 20, 2012, the Singing Bridge was silenced once again.

"People sent us condolences about our loss. They choked up as they shared their memories."

It was explained that LHB, the engineers, looked at the blueprints for the original 1934 bridge. Log handrails were on the original plans, and have been added to the approach to the bridge.

A stone mason delayed his retirement to work on the bridge. He removed the concrete caps on the pillars and rebuilt the caps out of stone.

"There is a lot of heart and soul of the bridge in the pillars," said Hoeft.

Attending the ribbon cutting were Representative Mary Murphy, who helped secure the funding from the state, and representatives of LHB, PCI, the general contractors, and the subcontractors.

Children, representing the next lifetime of the bridge, and the oldest person, James Sunnaborg, who remembers the first bridge, were asked to be the first to cross the bridge.

The new swinging bridge is handicap accessible.

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