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KARE in the Air: Stillwater Lift Bridge

Our summer drone series takes us above the oft-observed and photographed span that lets walkers and bikers across the St. Croix River.

STILLWATER, Minn. — Mention Stillwater and the city's legendary Lift Bridge is often the first that jumps into someone's mind.  

The bridge sits at the center of downtown and crosses the St. Croix river to link Minnesota with neighboring Wisconsin. 

A post from the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) webpage says the 10-span bridge was originally constructed in 1931. It includes six steel Parker through truss spans, one movable span of the type commonly known as a “Waddell and Harrington vertical lift,” and three concrete slab approach spans.

The moveable span is the one you see moving up and down to allow large boats pass underneath. Many a Minnesotan has been caught in the traffic backup that results when the bridge is raised. 

If you wonder how it works - pit on your technical hat and listen up: MnDOT says the lift span is raised and lowered by steel cables, which pass over sheaths at the top of the towers mounted on the span's piers.

The lift is counterweighted by concrete blocks that travel up and down within the tower framework.

In 2012 the bridge was closed for a significant amount of time as crews completed structural repairs to make it safe. 

Finally, after decades of service to auto traffic the Stillwater Lift  Bridge closed to motor vehicles in 2017, with the opening of the new St. Croix Crossing Bridge in Oak Park Heights giving drivers a safer, faster option. 

The old bridge continues to serve pedestrian and marine traffic.