Wednesday, March 14, 2018

And So It Goes – Savanna-Sabula Bridge

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

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In early 2015, as I was contemplating a route to Missouri, I came across some information that they were going to begin construction of a new bridge across the Mississippi between Savanna, Illinois and Sabula, Iowa. This bridge would be built near the existing bridge, eventually replacing it. So, I knew we needed to capture some photos of the historical bridge before construction started.

Our only previous visit to Savanna had been late in the day, and before we finished in town, darkness was upon us, so we didn’t even see the historical bridge. In April of that year, on the first day of a 10-day trip to Missouri, we decided to head south to Galena and then follow the Mississippi south.

As is true along a lot of the Mississippi, there are railroad tracks running right along the shore. Double tracks in fact, and very active. As we pulled up to the north view of the bridge, Joann got out of the car, but before she could get her equipment out, a train whistle blew and a train came down the tracks. Unfortunately, before it passed under the bridge and cleared our view, it stopped and just idled there for what seemed like forever. We wondered if we would get any decent pictures before we had to move on.

The bridge was originally built in 1932-33, and was a toll bridge until the 1980’s. It was famous for its narrow lanes, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. Before this bridge was built, the only means of crossing the river at this point was by ferry.

Eventually the train moved on and, after capturing some photos from the north side of the bridge, we drove to a small parking area just south of the bridge where we could photograph it from another angle.

I hadn’t been following the new bridge construction, and we were out all day last Friday, so I was surprised when I got home and found out that the historical bridge had been demolished earlier that day.

We wouldn’t have driven all the way down for something that was over in a few seconds, but we were saddened to hear that it was gone. The new bridge had been built very close to the old one, and it would not have made as good of a picture with the new one right behind it, or in front of it, depending on the side you were on.

We only recently started chasing after these big old bridges, and by the time we did start, many of them had already been removed. We’re very thankful that we made it to this one before it was demolished.

If you would like to see videos of the demolition from various angles, visit this WQAD Channel 8 page.

Enjoy any old bridges you come across (or drive across) in your travels, since you never know when they may disappear.

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Happy Shunpiking!



  1. Ah...infrastructure from the does tell its own story, but it is so much better in pictures. Thank you!

  2. I too love old bridges! Thank you for capturing it before they demolish it. :)

  3. Jean and Stephanie, thanks for your comments. It's sad to see these old bridges destroyed. Of course, you have to consider safety, but then a lot of new bridges are collapsing these days, so there are safety concerns there, too.

  4. Thanks, Ruth and Joann, for this interesting story and photos of the beautiful old bridge. Joann, it looks like you wrote your comment about new bridges collapsing the same day that the new pedestrian bridge collapsed in Miami, tragically killing several people. As you point out, new isn't always better.

    1. Phyllis, yes, that Miami bridge collapse was on my mind, especially when I read that the engineering firm that designed it also designed the new I-35W bridge over the Mississippi that replaced the one that collapsed in 2007. But we wouldn't get anywhere if we didn't drive over and under bridges.

  5. Wow. I had not read that it was the same engineering firm. You are right - we must drive over (or under) bridges but it does show that people's bridge phobias may be warranted!