Bridge Hopping Boom Island to Harriet Island
This riverside route from Minneapolis to St. Paul brings you from an inner-city environment through wooded sections rife with wildlife, along populated river bluffs and into a second urban environment.
Paved roadways marked by infrequent cobblestone. This tour takes place in the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul. Stay alert.
Closest motorcycle dealerships include Honda Town, Scooterville, Ducati Minneapolis, Bluecat Motors, Hitching Post Motorsports, St. Paul Harley-Davidson and Indian Motorcycle of the Twin Cities.
Your starting point, the 943-foot-long Plymouth Avenue Bridge, opened in 1983, serves as the first segmental concrete girder bridge built in Minnesota. Since then, other bridges in the state have used this construction method, including the I-35 Saint Anthony Falls Bridge in Minneapolis, the Wabasha Street Bridge in St. Paul and the Wakota Bridge in South St. Paul. The original bridge was a wooden truss design, built in 1873, when Minneapolis, then only on the west side of the river, consolidated with the city of St. Anthony on the east side of the river.
Travel beneath the 1,037-foot-long Hennepin Avenue Bridge – which, in its original 1855 form, became the first permanent span across the Mississippi at any point – and the 2,223-foot-long Third Avenue Bridge, built with a shallow “S” curve to avoid fractures in the limestone bedrock that supports its piers.
At this point, although you just started your journey, you may want to park and check out St. Anthony Falls, the Stone Arch Bridge, Mill Ruins Park and other sites that make up the St. Anthony Falls Historic District. From 1880 to about 1930, Minneapolis was the “Flour Milling Capital of the World”; this area serves as a reminder of the important industries that carved out the Twin Cities.
Keep traveling past the Mill City Museum, beneath the Guthrie Theater’s 178-foot cantilevered “Endless Bridge” to the I-35W Saint Anthony Falls Bridge – opened in 2008 following the 2007 collapse tragedy that claimed the lives of 13 people and injured 145.
Completed in 1967, the first I-35 bridge (dubbed “Bridge 9340”) was, when it fell, still the most recent river crossing built on a new site in Minneapolis. The new $234 million structure, erected in a mere 13 months and 17 days, includes 50,000 cu. yards of concrete and was assembled in shifts with as many as 400 workers during the day and 200 at night. It spans more than 1,216 feet, allows for 10 lanes of traffic, and carries approx. 140,000 commuters per day.
Travel past Bohemian Flats Park, a section of low riverside land that once served as an immigrant neighborhood, to your next bridge encounter: the twin-deck Washington Avenue Bridge that connects the East Bank and West Bank portions of the University of Minnesota’s main campus. While a utilitarian structure with simple architecture, the 1,130-foot-long bridge remains culturally significant in the Twin Cities because thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors walk across it every day. In fact, a study in 2009 showed the bridge was traversed by an average 71,400 people per day, including 21,000 pedestrians and bicyclists.
As you continue southeast along West River Parkway, enjoy the Mississippi on your left and the tree-lined boulevard on your right before coming across the 1,001-foot-long twin-pier steel I-beam Dartmouth Bridge, which carries more vehicles than any other bridge in the state (167,000 vehicles daily), on Interstate 94 between downtown Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
Once safely out from beneath that structure you’ll find yourself approaching the Franklin Avenue Bridge – officially named the F.W. Cappelen Memorial Bridge after the structure’s designer. The current 1,055-foot-long concrete arch bridge replaces one built in 1889 and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
Put a finger to the throttle (but not much, this is a 25 mph road) until the reinforced concrete arch Lake Street-Marshall Bridge comes into view. Connecting Lake Street in Minneapolis to Marshall Avenue in St. Paul, this 1,484-foot-long structure opened in 1992 as a replacement for a wrought-iron span built in 1889. Some of you may remember the first attempt at its demolition failed. Another, more powerful batch of explosives brought the old bridge down a few weeks later.
While you lost a view of the Mississippi a while back, be sure it’s there just beyond the trees on your left as you continue south along West River Parkway and around Mississippi Gorge Regional Park.
The next bridge you’ll encounter is the Intercity Bridge, more commonly known as the Ford Parkway Bridge (and sometimes referred to as the 46th Street Bridge). You’re going to use this one to cross the river. The Intercity Bridge is historically significant as one of the largest reinforced concrete bridges ever built in Minnesota. In the National Register of Historic Places, the 1,523-foot-long structure opened in 1927 and underwent significant work in 1973 and 2004.
At this point you should traverse off of Ford Parkway and onto South Mississippi River Boulevard, heading south with Ford’s vacated Twin Cities Assembly Plant on your left and Ford Dam (officially known as Lock and Dam No. 1) on your right.
Here the boulevard carves its way high atop the bluffs over the river, past Hidden Falls-Crosby Farm Regional Park on your right and a splendid display of mansions on the left.
South Mississippi River Boulevard turns into Shepard Road when it crosses perpendicular over the Fort Road Bridge, a girder span that connects Ft. Snelling in Minneapolis with St. Paul and was first completed in 1880, replaced in 1912, and replaced again in 1961.
Continue rolling east on Shepard Road, with the Mississippi to your right and neighborhoods, retail areas and industrial sites to your left. This soon leads you into St. Paul proper. Traverse your way onto the Wabasha Street Bridge and follow it onto Harriet Island.
The Wabasha Street Bridge is a segmental box girder bridge and actually consists of two separate bridges, one for northbound and one for southbound traffic. Built in 1998, it replaced a structure erected in 1889 and features 11-foot-wide sidewalks, six overlooks at the pier locations, and a stairway to Raspberry Island – which features a park and serves as home to the Minnesota Boat Club, a rowing club founded in 1870.
Harriet Island was named for Harriet Bishop, a Baptist teacher from Vermont who arrived in Saint Paul in 1847, was involved in the temperance movement and opened the first school in the frontier city. The park was the idea of Dr. Justus Ohage, St. Paul’s health officer, who donated the land to the city in 1900. The park’s pavilion, built of Mankato-Kasota stone, was designed by Clarence W. Wigington, the nation’s first black municipal architect.