Iowa April 09, 2020
The Tallest, Most Impressive Bridge In Iowa Can Be Found In The Town Of Boone
If you’re looking for a unique bit of Iowa history, head to Boone and visit the Kate Shelley High Bridge. The tallest bridge in Iowa is named after a true Hawkeye State hero who left a lasting legacy on her hometown.
In 1881, an Iowa teenager named Kate Shelley ran out into a thunderstorm, risking her own life, to warn a train that the bridge near Moingona had washed out.
Then, young Kate led rescuers to Honey Creek, where two men were pulled safely out of the floodwaters. Kate Shelley's actions on that night made her an instant local hero, and when a nearby bridge was built as the tallest bridge in Iowa, it took on her name.
When the new Boone Viaduct was built in 1901, it was one of the highest and longest double-track railroad bridges in the world.
It wasn't long before everyone who traveled across called it the Kate Shelley High Bridge, and the Boone Viaduct name was lost to history.
The Chicago & North Western Railway constructed the bridge and it stood 185 feet above the Des Moines River. It spanned 2,685 feet long and was truly a feat of modern engineering.
Trains crossed the Des Moines River here on their way from Chicago, and the railroad bridge connected the Windy City to the West.
The bridge held up for years, but it was suffering from wear and tear by the 1950s. The railroad was limiting traffic to one train at a time. In the 1980s, it was damaged in a wind storm and required extensive repair.
Over the years, the bridge changed hands. By 2001, Union Pacific had taken over the operation and kept spans open with a 25 mile-per-hour limit.
Starting in 2006, Union Pacific began constructing a new double track bridge directly next to the old historic span. The newer bridge was made 160 feet longer and slightly taller than its predecessor.
The bridge opened to traffic on August 20, 2009, and the new bridge was officially named the Kate Shelley Bridge in honor of an incredible Iowan.
Today, the old, retired bridge stands tall alongside the newer span, and both share the record of being the tallest bridge in Iowa.
These modern man-made wonders are impressive, particularly if you look up from the ground near the base.
As for Kate Shelley, her story is preserved not far from the Kate Shelley High Bridge. You can visit the Kate Shelley Museum to learn about the railroading history of Boone and the surrounding area.
You can read more about the
tale of Kate Shelley here.
For more amazing Iowa history, read
10 Photos From Iowa’s History That Are A Fascinating Window Into The Past. Address: Kate Shelley High Bridge, Boone, IA 50036, USA
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