There was a time when North Dakota was home to the tallest and longest bridge in the world. Although that title has long been outdone, it’s still the highest bridge in North Dakota and one of the highest in the country. This remarkable bridge is a favorite subject for photographers as it traverses the Sheyenne River.
What is the Highest Bridge in North Dakota?
Towering 162 feet above the Sheyenne River, the High-Line Railroad Bridge is the highest in North Dakota. Further, at 3,860 feet long, the High-Line Bridge is one of the longest in the state. Over one hundred years old, the bridge was constructed by the Northern Pacific Railroad so its trains could avoid the sheer inclines of the Sheyenne River Valley. The bridge is still used today by freight trains for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway System.
Where is the High-Line Railroad Bridge on a Map?
The railroad bridge crosses the Sheyenne River in Valley City in the eastern part of North Dakota. Located in Barnes County, Valley City is a small town between Fargo and Jamestown.
History of the North Dakota’s Highest Bridge
The Sheyenne River cuts through a deep valley in North Dakota. The original railway line had to descend from the east, cross the river over a low bridge, and climb back up out of the valley at a steep grade to the west. The Northern Pacific Railroad company decided to build a higher bridge across the river to avoid trains needing to travel the severe grades.
Construction for the bridge started in 1906 and was completed in 1908. When it was built, the railway bridge was an important link from the East Coast to the West Coast. The bridge was so critical for transporting goods across the country that it was guarded by soldiers during both World Wars to avoid sabotage.
The bridge consists of 61 spans, supported by 30 steel towers. The towers are supported by concrete foundation piers. Materials used to complete the High-Line Bridge included 14 million pounds of steel, 10,000 cubic feet of concrete, and 80,000 linear feet of wood piling under the piers. The bridge cost $1.5 million to build, which was a lot of money in 1908. It’s the equivalent of $50 million today.
Valley City: Visiting the High-Line Bridge Today
The best place to get a good look at the picturesque bridge today is at Chautauqua Park in Valley City, located alongside the river. Chautauqua Park is 16 acres of green space and recreation including a dog park, sand volleyball, a playground, picnic tables, a fishing dock, and an outdoor fitness area. Additionally, the park has many scenic views of the High-Line Bridge.
Valley City is known as the City of Bridges, thanks to its scenic and historic bridges. Since the town was built around the river, bridges were a necessity in daily life. There are a total of 13 bridges in town and eight of those are part of the Scenic Bridges Tour, including the High-Line Bridge.
Visitors on the tour can see the first bridge built in the city. The Rainbow Bridge was originally a wooden bridge built in 1879, then replaced with steel in 1899, and finally built with concrete in 1926. Another notable bridge is the VCSU footbridge. It was originally a single wooden plank with handrails that linked the college to the city. Today, it’s been replaced with an ornate suspension bridge.
Wildlife Around the High-Line Railroad Bridge
Valley City is located in what is called the Prairie Pothole Region. In this area, freshwater marshes were created by retreating glaciers over 10,000 years ago. These depressions in the ground fill with water in the spring, which becomes a habitat for ducks and other waterfowl. Half of all the ducks in America spend at least some of their year in the Prairie Pothole Region, giving the area the title of “America’s duck factory.”
Other birds living in the area include mourning doves, tundra swans, sandhill cranes, geese, gray partridge, pheasants, and wild turkeys. White-tailed deer, rabbits, coyotes, and squirrels are common in the area, and you may also spot the occasional moose.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Christopher Cagney/iStock via Getty Images
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