19th Century Dubuque Bridge Restored for Trail Use


By Jay Knoll

DUBUQUE, Iowa - For 20 years, the bridge dating back to 1872 stood about 30 feet off Heritage Trail. It remained mostly untouched, smothered by area wildlife. But now, there's one group of nature enthusiasts in Dubuque with a unique idea to get some use out of it.

The bridge, commonly known as the 1872 bridge, has a very long history in Dubuque.

"It was one of the 7 approach spans to the Dubuque Dunlieth Railroad Bridge that sits over the Mississippi in downtown Dubuque," said Don Foley, a member of the Friends of Dubuque County Conservation Board.

When the marshlands in Dubuque were filled with dirt, the bridge moved across the Little Maquoketa River, where it sat for 102 years.

But, when a new bridge was constructed in 1992, the 1872 bridge moved along side Heritage trail and there is sat for another 20 years.

" You would ride by it and you could hardly recognize this bridge due to the overgrowth," said Foley.

In early 2011, Foley contacted the conservation board with the idea of placing a wood deck and seating on the bridge, making it a rest stop for trail-goers. The conservation board liked the idea.

" So we started last fall, and in one day we had gotten the entire floor on hereā€¦that's 70 feet of floor!"

Friends of the Dubuque County Conservation Board hope the newly renovated bridge is not only is a rest stop for those who explore Heritage Trail, but a place that remains a destination for Eastern Iowa history and nature. Volunteers finished their work on the bridge earlier this summer. The group funded the project with a donation from Spahn and Rose Lumber in Dubuque.

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