#Lookback: Black Bridge

by | Updated Jan 3, 2020 at 12:08PM

A series where we take a #lookback at the stories and history of our community,

brought to you by Mick Pryor, Financial Advisor with Edward Jones.

Missouri Valley is the name given to an area near Riverton, north of Lost Wells Butte, and east of Ocean Lake. This name is shared with a small town on the very western edge of Iowa. Coincidentally, more than a name bridges these two towns.

As the Chicago and Northwestern railroad moved west toward its final westernmost stop in Lander, one of its early challenges was in crossing the Missouri River. In the earliest years, cars and passengers were carried across the river on ferries. Later, in 1872, Union Pacific built a railroad bridge at Omaha, but squabbles between Chicago and Northwester, and Union Pacific, combined with squabbles between Iowa and Nebraska complicated the river crossing. Though those squabbles were eventually resolved, and Chicago and Northwestern was able to pay a fee to use Union Pacific’s bridge, they were still interested in their own bridge nearby.

In late 1881, Chicago and Northwest subsidiary executives met with bridge engineer George S. Morison. Eventually, a suitable crossing site was located between Missouri Valley, Iowa and Blair, Nebraska. A June 27, 1882 congressional act authorized the bridge’s construction, and the Secretary of War approved the plans on August first of that year. The final plan called for three Whipple (flat topped) trusses, the largest of which spanned 330 feet. The bridge was completed in 1883. The above drawing is from Morison’s design for this bridge

Within a few decades, rail traffic increased, and locomotives became heavier and faster. The Blair crossing bridge had become inadequate. A speed limit of ten miles per hour had been placed on the bridge for all trains, and plans were made for its replacement, which occurred in 1923. This new bridge has undergone a few upgrades, but still supports rail traffic today.

The old bridge spans were still in good condition, and were carefully removed. Between 1925 and 1927, all three sections were moved out to Fremont County and modified slightly to fit their new homes. Two of these bridge sections crossed the Wind River at the south end of Riverton. The other section – now called Black Bridge – still stands just a few miles east of Missouri Valley on the Wyoming Heritage Trail. It still even bears the 1883 plaque, indicating the year of its original construction. These bridges are some of the relatively few railroad bridges to have been relocated. They are possibly the only bridges to be have been built within two dozen miles of two different settlements that share a name, but are hundreds of miles apart.

Next up for the Fremont County Museums

January 16th at the Riverton Museum 6:30pm, “Routine Patrol: Memoirs of a Small Town Cop” By Bart Ringer

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

January 23rd at the Dubois Museum 7pm, “From Clovis to Cowboy: Five Years of Archaeological Reconnaissance Between 10,000 and 13,800ft in the Wind River Mountains, Wyoming” By Todd Guenther

Wyoming Community Bank Discovery Speakers Series

February 8th at the Riverton Museum 2pm, “Exploring Historic Computers”

Bailey Tire/Pit Stop Children’s Exploration Series

February 14th at the Riverton Museum 5:30-9:30, “Murder Mystery Night at the Museum: Roaring 20’s”

Consider supporting The Dubois Museum, the Pioneer Museum in Lander or the Riverton Museum with a monetary donation. The museums are more reliant than ever on donations from the private sector to continue to provide the quality programs, collections management, exhibits and services that have become their hallmark. Please make your tax deductible contribution to be used specifically for the benefit of the museum of your choosing by sending a check to Fremont County Museums 450 N 2nd Rm 320 or taking it directly to the museum you choose to support.

This County 10 Series is brought to you by:


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Fremont County Events


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