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Black Hawk Bridge

Lansing Bridge

   


Black Hawk Bridge

Primary Photographer(s): Nathan Holth and Rick McOmber

Bridge Documented: June 29, 2009 and August 9, 2013
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Key Facts

Facility Carried / Feature Intersected
IA-9 and WI-82 Over Mississippi River
Location
Lansing and Rural: Allamakee County, Iowa and Crawford County, Wisconsin
Structure Type
Metal Cantilever 22 Panel Multiple-Type-Connected Pennsylvania Through Truss, Fixed and Approach Spans: Metal 6 Panel Rivet-Connected Pratt Deck Truss, Fixed
Construction Date and Builder / Engineer
1931 By Builder/Contractor: McClintic-Marshall Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Engineer/Design: Melvin B. Stone of Minneapolis, Minnesota

Technical Facts

Rehabilitation Date
1955
Main Span Length
652.3 Feet (198.8 Meters)
Structure Length
1630.7 Feet (497 Meters)
Roadway Width
21 Feet (6.4 Meters)
Spans
3 Main Span(s) and 6 Approach Span(s)
NBI Number
13520

Historic Significance Rating (HSR)

Bridge Documentation

View Archived National Bridge Inventory Report - Has Additional Details and Evaluation

View Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) Documentation For This Bridge

HAER Data Pages, PDF

View Original Plan Sheets For This Bridge

View Historical Black Hawk Bridge Opening Day Booklet

This bridge is among the most unusual and significant large scale cantilever truss bridges in the country, on account of its excellent historic integrity, relatively old age, increasing rarity, and unusual design.  Located in one of the most beautiful and photogenic settings imaginable, with a small town on the Iowa side, and expansive flood plains on the Wisconsin side, all contained within a large and  impressive river valley. There are ample locations to view the bridge from numerous angles, including a truly spectacular and unique view of the bridge from the Mount Hosmer lookout in Lansing, this is a bridge that must be seen in person to be truly appreciated. The bridge has very a very impressive appearance, with well-defined cantilever towers which rise dramatically above the surrounding trusses. The bridge has a camber that is not curved, but is composed of an inclined deck that immediately ends between the cantilever towers at the center of the bridge. The transition is sharp enough that it acts almost like a speed bump, and helps to calm traffic speed on the bridge, increasing the safety of the structure.

Perhaps the bridge's most distinctive and unusual feature is that the central suspended span, which is a Pennsylvania through truss, is not connected to the cantilever arms at the top, and is only connected by the bottom chord and by vertical eye bar suspenders from the top chord. Viewing the bridge from elevation (side view) this unusual design makes the suspended span very easy to discern. The bridge is actually a good teaching tool for demonstrating how a cantilever truss bridge's suspended span is structurally independent from the cantilever arms, in other words, the suspended span it is a complete bridge on its own being held at the ends by the cantilever arms.

The significance of all surviving cantilever truss bridges has risen rapidly in recent years. This is due to the decimation of the nation's historic cantilever truss bridges by short-sighted owners who feel the only solution is to demolish a historic cantilever bridge and replace it with a mundane cable-stayed bridge with no heritage value or engineering significance. The Black Hawk Bridge is a beautiful historic monument that is one of the most defining landmarks and top attractions of the small town of Lansing, Iowa. In addition, the bridge retains excellent historic integrity, is a relatively old surviving large-scale highway cantilever bridge, and has a unique design. Its preservation, whether it continues to serve vehicular traffic or is bypassed by a new bridge and used for non-motorized traffic only, should be pursued at all costs.

The bridge was rehabilitated in 1955. In 2013, additional work took place including a repainting of the bridge. Some of the photos available on this website are from during the repainting.

Information and Findings From Iowa's Historic Bridge Inventory

Discussion of Bridge

"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]

Bridge Considered Historic By Survey: Yes

Visit Iowa's Historic Bridge Website

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Photos and Videos: Black Hawk Bridge

Available Photo Galleries and Videos

Click on a thumbnail or gallery name below to visit that particular photo gallery. If videos are available, click on a video name to view and/or download that particular video.

 
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Structure Overview
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. For the best visual immersion and full detail, or for use as a desktop background, this gallery presents the photos for this bridge in the original digital camera resolution.
View Photo Gallery
Structure Details
Original / Full Size Photos
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. For the best visual immersion and full detail, or for use as a desktop background, this gallery presents the photos for this bridge in the original digital camera resolution.
View Photo Gallery
Structure Overview
Mobile Optimized Gallery
A collection of overview photos that show the bridge as a whole and general areas of the bridge. View the photos for this bridge in a reduced size which is useful for mobile/smartphone users, modem (dial-up) users, or those who do not wish to wait for the longer download times of the full-size photos. Alternatively, view this photo gallery using a popup slideshow viewer (great for mobile users) by clicking the link below.
Browse Gallery With Popup Viewer
View Photo Gallery
Structure Details
Mobile Optimized Gallery
A collection of detail photos that document the parts, construction, and condition of the bridge. View the photos for this bridge in a reduced size which is useful for mobile/smartphone users, modem (dial-up) users, or those who do not wish to wait for the longer download times of the full-size photos. Alternatively, view this photo gallery using a popup slideshow viewer (great for mobile users) by clicking the link below.
Browse Gallery With Popup Viewer
View Video
CarCam: Westbound Crossing
Full Motion Video
Note: The downloadable high quality version of this video (available on the video page) is well worth the download since it offers excellent 1080 HD detail and is vastly more impressive than the compressed streaming video. Streaming video of the bridge. Also includes a higher quality downloadable video for greater clarity or offline viewing.

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