Historic U.S. 61: French River Bridge
French River Bridge
Located: On St Louis County Road 61 at French River.
Bridge #: 3601
Design: Ribbed open spandrel concrete arch, 115 feet long.
Constructed: 19211 or 232, widened in 1951.
Historic Context: Early reinforced concrete highway bridge (heavily modified).
Status: Open, rated as structurally deficient.
Access: On St Louis County Road 61. A large public parking lot and trails leading under the bridge are provided (these are for access to the state fish hatchery just north of the bridge).
More U.S. 61 Articles
North >> Buchanan Historic Marker
South >> Talmadge River Bridge
The French River Bridge is a striking reinforced concrete arch bridge located on the Old North Shore Scenic Drive between Duluth and Two Harbors. It was originally constructed in the early 1920's as part of the building of Congdon Boulevard.
This hidden gem is the only reinforced concrete bridge on the north shore to feature open spandrels instead of solid ones. Its design is reminiscent of the much larger bridges of the same type built across the Mississippi in the Twin Cities between 1914 and the late 1920's.
The bridge was heavily modified in 1951 when it was widened to increase the roadway width from 19 feet to 30 feet. Sadly, the plans for the modifications (as well as the original plans) seem to be missing from MnDOT's files. However, other plans show that the centerline of the road was moved to the south (closer to Lake Superior), meaning that the bridge would have been widened in that direction. This appears to have been accomplished by adding another concrete rib arch, increasing the number from two to three.
Photos - taken in April, 2010.
View of the bridge from the North Shore Scenic Drive, looking north. The parking lot for the state fish hatchery is visible on the right.
The dedication plaque placed on the south railing when the bridge was widened in 1951, hiding its original construction date.
The concrete arches of the French River Bridge as seen from below. The arch and supports on the left side of the bridge were most likely added in 1951. Note the walking path and interpretive marker for the state fish hatchery.
A different view of the bridge from below.
- Report: MnDOT Bridges Over 20 Ft in Length - 6/23/2009
- MnDOT Construction Project Logs: Control Section 6926
- Construction Plan For Grading, Gravel Base and Bituminous Surfacing: Trunk Hwy 61 Between 59th Ave E in Duluth and Knife River Underpass, State Project No. 6925-14, 6926-05, 3804-05, February 27 1951, Minnesota Department of Highways.