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KARE in the Air: The tallest bridge in Minnesota

Our trusty drone takes us to the Iron Range, where the 200-foot-tall Thomas Rukavina bridge spans the Rouchleau Mine Pit.

VIRGINIA, Minn. — Minnesota is not exactly known for its elevation, but we actually do have some fairly tall stuff. 

This edition of our ongoing drone series KARE in the Air takes us to the Iron Range, where the tallest bridge in the state spans the water-filled Rouchleau Mine Pit between Virginia and Eveleth via Highway 53. 

Folks who built it say the Thomas Rukavina Memorial Bridge is 204 feet tall and 1,125 feet across. It is named after the long-time state legislator who built a reputation as a fierce advocate for the people of northern Minnesota. The bridge opened to traffic in 2017 and was dedicated to Rukavina in 2021. 

While Rukavina was not a tall man - just a few inches over 5 feet tall - the veteran legislator once said it was only fitting that the Iron Range should have the highest bridge in Minnesota, said Mark Phillips, Department of Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation at the time of the dedication. Phillips told the Mesabi Tribune that the bridge’s height matches Rukavina’s “towering legacy.’’

Here a few more facts about Minnesota's tallest bridge:

  • 10 million pounds worth of steel beams keep crossing motorists safe and in the air
  • The structure contains 800,000 pounds of rebar 
  • Cars, pedestrians, and bikes enjoy the view, but in a decidedly Range-like twist, even snowmobiles are welcome to cross the bridge.

At the time it was built, the next tallest bridge in Minnesota was the Smith Avenue Bridge, aka the St. Paul "High Bridge" with a deck 140 feet above the Mississippi River. 


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Watch more KARE in the Air:

Check out amazing drone video of Minnesota's most beautiful and iconic spots in our YouTube playlist:

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