Tag Archives: Rails to Trails

Field Trip: High Trestle Trail Bridge

This is not a trestle bridge. In the early 1970s it replaced a 1912 high trestle bridge for the Union Pacific Railroad (which had replaced an even earlier bridge). Abandoned as a railroad bridge in 2003, it is now part of the 25 mile High Trestle Trail in central Iowa.

The entrances on either end of the half mile long bridge are marked by towers that “speak to the cutting and slicing from natural sources that formed” the Des Moines River valley. (From signage along the bridge.) The dark rocks in the structures are a nod to the coal seams in the land and the coal mining history of the area.

Supported by 22 concrete and steel piers, the bridge stands 130 feet (13 stories) above the Des Moines River. Being able to see the wider base of the piers is an indication the river is really low – not a good sign in mid-June.

Its height is one thing. But it was the addition of twisted steel framework that made the bridge notable.

43 steel cribbings are sculptural forms that embody the coal mining history. The changing geometry of the cribbing radiates around you. The viewer moves along the path as though moving through history, through the tunnel of a mine.

– From a sign along the bridge

The previous two pictures are looking toward the western end of the bridge. The next two are shot toward the eastern end.

For more information about the bridge, click on the following links:
Iowa Virtual Museum: High Trestle Trail Bridge – shows pictures of the early effort to convert the bridge from abandoned railway to a bicycle and pedestrian trail;
Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation: High Trestle Trail – provides a history of the bridge and the rails to trails effort and shows a picture of the bridge lit by blue LED lights at night.