The iconic swinging bridge at Jay Cooke State Park will re-open for pedestrians next week. The entire structure was damaged during the June 20, 2012 rainstorm and flooding that engulfed the entire St. Louis River Valley. Not only was the swinging bridge lost, but also large portions of hillsides in the park were washed away and roadways were destroyed, as the culverts were no match for the volume of floodwater.
The U.S. Forest Service first built the swinging bridge in 1924 using log cribbing as towers. Then in 1934 and 1935 the Civilian Conservation Corps using the familiar stone towers and swinging main walkway rebuilt the bridge. In 1950 the St. Louis River, high with spring runoff, took out the bridge thus having to be rebuilt in 1953. This bridge incarnation from the 1950’s is the one that we have become most familiar with until the June of 2012 flood.
The reconstruction of the swinging bridge was done at a cost of $1.1 million, and with the exception of a few small details is nearing the end. The four stone pillars withstood the flood, but were reconditioned and restored over the last 16 months. The steel suspension system and wooden walkway are all-new, and will give park visitors the wonderful swinging sensation they have become used to upon crossing the bridge. Additionally, log handrails have been installed on the approach ramps to replicate the feel of the bridge from the 1950’s.
Please come and visit Jay Cooke State Park and cross the swinging bridge when it opens next week. The park, the bridge, and the river are all hidden gems right here in our North Woods backyard. They should be seen and enjoyed.