By tearing up I-35 in and around Duluth, MnDOT has given us a great reason to travel the Oliver Bridge, one of my favorite bridges. When you’re heading to the North Shore, as every good Minnesota should do at least annually, simply exit onto State Hwy 23 east after Sandstone, then after 50 miles or so, after you’ve entered one of those weird old railroad suburbs of Duluth, you’ll see a sign for Superior, WI to your right. Soon after you take it, you’ll see a train flying over an embankment that seems to simultaneously emerge from the river like Venus and travel directly into the path of the winding road.
Oliver is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town, and the bridge is by far the best thing in or around it. Not only is the setting spectacular – the valley of the St Louis to your right and Spirit Bay’s expanse on your left, giving you the first inkling of the majesty of Lake Superior – but the bridge itself is just fun. How often do you get to see the belly of a moving train?
I never should have read the Wikipedia entry for the Oliver bridge. Apparently the east end of the bridge swings, but was only used for a ferry (!!!) that’s been defunct since the 30s. On top of that, according to the article the upper deck used to be double tracked, and was somehow built to accommodate a streetcar line from New Duluth to Superior that never came to be. Worst of all, there was a pedestrian walkway on the upper deck until recently. Like everything, one of my favorite bridges used to be even cooler.