The Late, Great Arrowhead Bridge

Here are some photos and an article from the last years of the Arrowhead Bridge, which spanned the St. Louis River between West Duluth and Superior for 57 years before being replaced by the Bong Bridge…

Oct. 2, 1981: The frosty planks of the Arrowhead Bridge made the going a tad slow for these morning commuters. (Charles Curtis / Duluth Herald)


Jan. 27, 1981: Despite money problems, the new $60 million Arrowhead Bridge (later named the Bong Bridge) across the St. Louis River is taking shape. The Superior-side approach is in the foreground. A problem in allocating federal money for the bridge has delayed its completion date until the fall of 1984. (Charles Curtis / Duluth Herald)


Oct. 27, 1982: The 4,780-foot Arrowhead Bridge (later named the Bong Bridge) spanning the St. Louis River between Duluth and Superior begins to take shape. This aerial photo shows the $66 million span, which is expected to be completed in about two years. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)


Old bridge joins memories Friday (published Oct. 25, 1984)


Oct. 24, 1984: An aerial view shows the old Arrowhead Bridge (foreground) and the new Richard Bong Memorial Bridge. (Joey McLeister / News-Tribune)


February 15, 1985: Jim Psyck of Cloquet, an employee of Park Construction Co., which is dismantling the old Arrowhead Bridge, works on removing a portion of the deck near the center of the bridge. (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)


March 18, 1985: The center span of the old Arrowhead Bridge has been taken down and work progresses on the Duluth side of the old landmark. Note the three workmen on the ice at center right; they are trying to get a front-end loader out of the ice (two of its tires are visible to the right of the workers) (Charles Curtis / News-Tribune)

15 Responses

  1. Tamara

    Oh, who could forget that bridge? I remember riding in the car and dreading going over that bridge! I was so scared that is would collapse! The sound it would make when you went over it was so rickety! This is the route we usually took to ‘Goldfines’ store and each time we went over the bridge I hid under a blanket and hoped we would make it over safely. I always asked “Did we make it over?”

  2. badger

    So cool to see aerial photos of the old Arrowhead and construction of the Bong. I grew up in Superior and used to hate going over the Arrowhead, especially in the winter. You had to go so slow and it sounded like it was breaking apart. It was a cool bridge though, no denying that.

    I remember watching construction of the Bong from Billings Park, but I was so young my memories are a little hazy. We moved away before it was finished and I haven’t been back very often. What a nice reminder to stumble on, thanks.

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  4. Lonnie

    As a kid growing up in the Duluth-Superior area, I made many trips across that bridge with my parents and it scared the crap out of me. That bridge was so old and frail. I still can remember how the tires of the car would sound going over those wooden planks. I always wondered why the bridge was constructed of mainly wood? The Brooklyn Bridge in N.Y. is older than the old Arrowhead Bridge and it isn’t all wood. Sure it may have been almost all wood back in the 20’s when it was built, however, why wasn’t it updated throughout the years to more a modern stronger structure? In fact, the Areial Lift Bridge in Duluth in Canal Park is older than the Old Arrowhead Bridge and that is all steel and has been from day one.

  5. I loved that bridge!

    The last remaining “fishing pier” was demolished last year. My grandfather, who worked for the Great Northern Railroad would take me fishing on the bridge. He would use the smelt he caught from the spring as bait. He loved to take his grandchildren because it gave him an extra line. When a northern was on the line you would have to “walk ‘er down the bridge,” crossing over other people’s lines.

    Grandma would sit in the car reading the paper. She spoke of the bridge as being the “new bridge” because the it was built after the interstate bridge.

    When a truck passed by, the whole bridge would shake and rattle. Scared me to death.

    I loved walking 1/2 way up the bridge where the state line was marked. I could have “one foot in MN and one foot in WI”

    My father, who retired from Benson Electric was called all hours of the the day to fix the bridge when it was stuck up. Navigating the bridge in the winter was something else.

    After the “high bridge” was open, the toll went away, and by the time it was closed, most everyone would take the “high bridge” to Duluth to avoid going over that old bridge.

  6. Pingback : Richard I. Bong Memorial Bridge | Tips and Tokes

  7. bob j

    I always thought the bridge was in “bad” shape when I was a kid. My dad drove truck and was given tokens by his employer to pay the toll. still have one. If I remember right it was very dangerous, due to the planks being frosty, wet, and just plain slippery. Drivers had to slow down to a crawl to negiotate it, think people would tollerate it today??

  8. Hrbie

    I remember my brother and I hiding under a blanket when we approached the toll booth because we could barely afford the toll. I think it was something like 15 cents for car and driver and 5 or 10 cents for each additional person. I’m sure the attendant saw us, but was kind enough not to charge for two little kids.

    1. Sandra Jerina Black

      My parents has my sisters and I do the same thing! I couldn’t believe the guy in the toll booth didn’t see us huddled on the back seat floor!!

  9. John Ilse

    I had the subcontract to demolish the center span. I started work in December and worked through the winter. It was COLD. It was a rolling lift style bridge, where a counterweight offset the weight of the span so it had to be balanced carefully. The old operators would add or subtract weight depending on the moisture content of the wood. The original plan for demolition was to spend a lot of money to prop up those counterweights and then demo the bridge span. I figured that was a waste of money and would cut a little off the span, blast a little weight off the counterweight. Cut a little more off the span, etc. I’d raise and lower the bridge each time. When the bridge was raised, the counterweight would lower itself down close to the ice so I could drill and blast it. I nearly died on that job. The general contractor was honest and good to work for, unlike what I discovered years later while demolishing the old C&D grain elevators for the Port Authority. What a bunch of crooks down there.

  10. maestro710

    I lived near 40th Av. W. in Duluth for a few years and lived in West Duluth for a majority if my childhood. I recall many trips over the old Arrowhead bridge, but I don’t remember anyone paying any toll. when I was in high school, the dead-end road on the Duluth side where the bridge once stood was a popular party spot. Since then, it appears that the road has been removed/re-routed and that area is no longer accessible.
    I remember seeing the Bong bridge being built. It opened when I was in 7th grade, I believe.

  11. Kathie

    I remember going over that bridge as a kid, when it was still a toll bridge. Each of us kids would fight over who got to pay.

  12. -Berv

    This is so cool. I remember one of the last times I’d been over that bridge. It was in dense fog, and that bridge was so rickety!

  13. Jeff

    I know someone who went to cross the bridge after it had closed going for last call in Superior. Thank God he went into the ditch before making it to the “new” pier.

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