Discover the Longest Bridge in Wisconsin- A 11,800 Foot Mammoth

Written by Claire Wilson
Updated: August 3, 2023
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The Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge is the Longest Bridge in Wisconsin
Built in 1982, this bridge received its namesake from WWII fighter pilot, Richard Ira Bong.

We take for granted how much time bridges save us. Can you imagine making a carpool if you had to raft across a river? Not only are these architectural shortcuts convenient, but the fortitude these structures have to withstand the beatings of nature is marvelous. Especially when you consider the engineering of some of the lengthiest bridges, such as the longest bridge in Wisconsin, it truly is remarkable what humans are able to create.

Bong Bridge
The Bong Bridge consists of 31,000 tons of steel, 82,000 cubic yards of concrete, and 43 piers.

©High Bridge – License

Location of the Longest Bridge in Wisconsin

The Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge, or Bong Bridge for short, is an 11,800-foot mammoth! The bridge connects the cities of Superior, Wisconsin, and Duluth, Minnesota, via U.S Highway 2 (US 2). About 8,300 feet of the bridge suspends over water, and it has 54 miles of steel H piles (long poles used for foundational support). Each piling is drilled 200-250 feet into the river and can hold 150 tons.

The Bong Bridge consists of 31,000 tons of steel, 82,000 cubic yards of concrete, and 43 piers. The center span arch has a 120-foot clearance from the water to the bridge, allowing ships to pass under on their way to the twin ports (Superior and Duluth). The Bong Bridge replaced the Arrowhead toll bridge which had been operating since 1927. And through some fine engineering, Bong Bridge became the longest bridge in Wisconsin.

Richard Ira Bong
The bridge was named in honor of WWII fighter pilot, Richard Ira Bong, who flew over 200 missions and took down 40 enemy planes.

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History of the Bong Bridge

Built in 1982, this bridge received its namesake from WWII fighter pilot, Richard Ira Bong. Bong, nicknamed the “Ace of Aces” was from Poplar, Wisconsin. He flew on more than 200 missions, taking down 40 enemy planes. The Bong Bridge and the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center were both named to memorialize this hero.

As mentioned, Wisconsin and Minnesota officials collaborated on the Bong Bridge to improve the traffic congestion of the US-2 Arrowhead Bridge. When ships needed passage through, the draw spans of the Arrowhead Bridge would rise, causing traffic to back up. Architects designed the Bong Bridge to have high enough arches that ships could drift underneath, without affecting traffic. In addition, Minnesota and Wisconsin wanted a bridge that would allow trucks to transport railroad cargo without going through downtown Duluth.

Although a great plan, neither state could predict the change in the industry. Railway and trucking traffic declined in the 1980s, as the economy moved from mills and factories to service work and tourism around Lake Superior. The major docks slowed down as steel mills, rolling plants, and factories for metal casting shut down. All in all, while the Bong Bridge was a convenient way across the St. Louis River, it did not experience the volume of traffic for which it was built.

Animals Under the Longest Bridge in Wisconsin

Because of the St. Louis River, there is a wide variety of fish, birds, and more. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case. As an industry hot spot, a lot of industrial waste dumping occurred unchecked. In fact, the St. Louis River is one of the most polluted rivers in Minnesota. But, thanks to 45 years of pollution control and industry decline, the river is bouncing back. Even though it is still an Area of Concern, fish sensitive to pollution, like the lake sturgeon, are returning. That is a great sign! Here are some of the interesting animals you may spot by the Bong Bridge.

Walleye fish in the St-Lawrence River
Even though there is still a fish consumption advisory around the area of the longest bridge in Wisconsin, these sharp-toothed fish are popular among game fishers.

©RLS Photo/


These gold and olive-colored fish have two dorsal fins, which stabilize the fish and prevent it from rolling. Walleye get their name from their cloudy-looking eyes. This eye coloring comes from the tapetum lucidum, which is a layer of tissue that sits just behind the retina. It’s a retroreflector, which means it reflects light back through the retina, giving nocturnal creatures, like the walleye, superior vision in low light. That is why walleye mostly feed at dawn and dusk.

Even though there is still a fish consumption advisory around the area of the longest bridge in Wisconsin, these sharp-toothed fish are popular among game fishers. It’s because of the fish’s buttery flavor, which tastes great grilled, baked, beer-battered, etc.

Walleye are strong reproducers, with a single female fish laying up to 600,000 eggs per year! On top of that, walleye can live up to 20 years old. Because they are such prolific fish, game fishers love them as their population is very reliable.

Walleye have excellent hearing, making them tricky fish to catch, and also have taste buds on their lips and face. This means they can taste prey or a lure without even opening their mouths. No wonder walleye is the state fish of Minnesota!

Common Tern

This black-capped bird is endangered in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Because of shrinking habitats and contamination, common tern populations declined. But for the past 30 years, the DNR of both states partnered with public and private partners to protect nesting sites for these rare birds. And, it paid off. In 2020, a record number of fledglings (510 chicks) hatched from five major colony sites.

The common tern can drink both fresh and saltwater – getting rid of the excess salt through their nasal glands. They drink while in flight, swooping over the water and dipping the bill in several times. To hunt, the common tern hovers over the water and then plunges to snatch prey just under the surface. The common tern will also swim and pluck any floating food. They like to eat fish, marine worms and leeches along the river of the longest bridge in Wisconsin.

Red Fox

Those big ears aren’t just adorable, the red fox’s ears have incredible hearing. A 2014 study by the University of Duisburg-Essen determined that a fox can hear a mouse squeak from 100 feet away! They have one of the most sensitive hearing ranges of any mammal.

And, even though a red fox is just 16 inches tall, it can jump a six-foot-high fence. Talk about a vertical! They are also able to run 30 miles an hour, which comes in handy when outrunning predators such as the coyote and cougar.

Finally, red foxes, like the walleye, also have tapetum lucidum, which reflects light back through the retina. It gives the foxes fantastic night vision and intensifies the image in low light. This is why their eyes often glow green when light from a flashlight hits them.

The gorgeous red fur of this fox, along with its white underbelly, makes it a target for hunters. Unfortunately, red fox pelts are popular for their warmth, silky underfur, and durability. Hunters and fishermen have used red fox pelts for warm clothing for hundreds of years, and the fashion industry covets the fur for vests, hats, and jacket cuffs. Thankfully, strong efforts continue to be made to protect these elegant foxes.

As the largest fox in the world, these creatures adapted amiably to urban and suburban life. Red foxes wander all along the St. Louis River and beneath the longest bridge in Wisconsin.

The Longest Bridge Exclusively in Wisconsin

The Bong Bridge is the longest bridge with one side on the “cheesehead” state, but which bridge is the longest that resides completely in Wisconsin?

That would be the Daniel W. Hoan Memorial Bridge! It is a 10,032-foot tiered-arch bridge in downtown Milwaukee. It was originally called the Harbor Bridge, but it was renamed in memory of Daniel Hoan, one of the longest-serving mayors of Milwaukee.

Though construction on the bridge started in 1970, the bridge wasn’t open to traffic until 1977 because of the freeway revolts. This organized protest fought against the freeway system being constructed around downtown Milwaukee.

Plans for the Lake Freeway would have blocked the gorgeous view of Lake Michigan and the Milwaukee Art Museum. Thankfully, they never finished constructing the Lake Freeway. However, the protests delayed the construction of the Hoan Memorial Bridge in the meantime.

Daniel Hoan Memorial Bridge
Daniel W. Hoan Memorial Bridge is a 10,032-foot tiered-arch bridge in downtown Milwaukee.

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In Conclusion

Although a long bridge, the Hoan Memorial is 1,768 feet shy of the longest bridge in Wisconsin: the Bong Bridge. The Bong Bridge never became the busy commercial freeway it was designed to be, but it is still a magnificent drive across the wide St. Louis River. Though part of the Bong Bridge’s foundation is in Duluth, Wisconsinites don’t mind sharing the title of “longest bridge” with its Vikings neighbor.

Where is The Bong Bridge Located on a Map?

The Bong Bridge, officially called the Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge, links Duluth, Minnesota, with Superior, Wisconsin, and serves as a connector for U.S. Highway 2. It spans over Saint Louis Bay, which ultimately flows into Lake Superior, and stretches for a total length of approximately 11,800 feet, with around 8,300 feet of it traversing the water. The bridge was opened on October 25, 1985, and is named after the famous World War II fighter pilot, Richard Bong.

Here is The Bong Bridge on a map:

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The Bong Bridge
The Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge, or Bong Bridge for short, is an 11,800 foot mammoth!
© Dillon Beesley/

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About the Author

Claire is fascinated by the intricacy of nature and has always been drawn to animals. She's thrilled to share more knowledge about the world around us and write about how animals are even more extraordinary than we imagined!

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