Backstage Pass to North Dakota History

This blog takes you behind the scenes of the State Historical Society of North Dakota. Get a glimpse at a day-in-the-life of the staff, volunteers, and partners who make it all possible. Discover what it takes to preserve North Dakota's natural and cultural history.

Many historic bridges are protected from unrestrained destruction because of the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) 50 years ago. The NHPA obliges federal agencies to consider alternatives to demolition and to consult with state and local groups when repairs are needed. This year is an especially appropriate time to include a visit to some of the fascinating steel truss bridges protected by the NHPA process. Here are three of my favorites:

Viking Bridge
The recently restored Viking Bridge is about two miles northwest of Portland in Traill County. It is the oldest recorded bridge in North Dakota and is a Pratt thru truss steel bridge. Built in 1885 it was moved to its present location on the Goose River in 1915. The bridge was all prefabricated, except for the connector rods which had to be forged in place by a local blacksmith.

Viking Bridge in 1991

Viking Bridge in 1991, photo taken by Mark Hufstetler/Dale Martin SHSND/A&HP 32TR700

Viking Bridge in 2016

Restored Viking Bridge Photos Taken by Marilu Person June 2016

Map of Viking Bridge

Johnson Bridge
The Johnson Bridge is a pinned Pratt pony bridge featured in the J. Clark Salyer National Wildlife Refuge scenic auto tour. Constructed around 1900 - 1909, it was designed by the Fargo Bridge and Iron Company with crossed, counter bracing ties. Nearly forgotten when replaced, it is kept and maintained as an exhibit on the tour as a result of consultation.

Johnson Bridge

Photo by Lon Johnson/Pat Deeg, 1991 SHSND/A&HP 32MH128

The refuge headquarters is two miles north of Upham, McHenry County.

Map of Johnson Bridge

Long X Bridge

Long X Bridge Photo by Joe Trinka 2012

Long X Bridge
The Long X is an impressive 969 feet long with the largest span 325 feet. It is a rare cantilevered Warren thru truss bridge with alternating vertical members. Plans for the Long X Bridge, built in 1959, are evolving, and it is possible to keep the bridge. One proposal is to shorten the diagonal bracing, (the central “V”) and raise the central beam, allowing more than 20’ height clearance. It is located over the Little Missouri River on Highway 85/ND 200 in McKenzie County.

Map of Long X Bridge

You can find your own favorite bridges to visit at Bridge aficionados from all over the country maintain this website.

Which is your favorite bridge and why?