Lost Bridge of the Badlands
Lost Bridge was on the Little Missouri River, about 23 miles north of Killdeer in Dunn County. The name “Lost Bridge” holds a coincidental double meaning in this case, since the bridge no longer exists.
Above: An image from Google Earth. You can still see the missing swath of trees leading to the river’s edge, where the old Lost Bridge once stood.
These photos were taken by the Historic American Engineering Record, and the notes from the file tell an interesting story:
The Lost Bridge is a three-span, riveted Parker through truss, bridge designed by the North Dakota Highway Department and constructed in 1930. The bridge is associated with the Great Depression and stood relatively unused until approach roads were constructed in 1953 and paved in 1963 (north side) and in 1967 (south side). Thus, the bridge is well known in the State as “Lost Bridge.”
In short, this bridge was built to employ workers during the depression, but without roads leading to it, it was left unused for decades.
Today, there is a sign along the highway that tells the story in more detail. It reads:
More than a few ranchers have probably had to look for a lost cow in this country, but few people would suppose that even the world’s most famous Badlands were a place where you could lose a bridge.
A new bridge was built just downstream from here in 1931. A grand opening ceremony was scheduled for July 4, timed to coincide with the Killdeer Mountain Roundup Rodeo. The governor was to orate, military maneuvers held, and a small orchestra was to play for dancing on the bridge. But torrential rains forced postponement, and many people left before the festivities were held the next day (in a sea of mud).
Bad luck continued. The roads leading to the bridge were supposed to be paved, but the onset of the Great Depression left no money available for construction. Locals dubbed the modern highway bridge with only dirt roads leading to it “Lost Bridge”, and the name stuck. The approach roads were graded and graveled in 1953, then paved in 1968 (ed. note: this date is contradictory to the HAER information quoted earlier in this post). The original structure was replaced in the 1990s.
We don’t know the exact year these photos were taken, but the road appears to be paved on both sides of the bridge, so the photos must have been taken in 1967 or later.
Lost Bridge was built in 1930, and renovated or improved on a number of occasions in 1953, 1959, 1967, and 1970. The bridge was demolished in 1994 and a modern highway bridge now does the job.
This bridge was also called the Killdeer Bridge, Dunn County Bridge, and the Little Missouri River Bridge.
It’s a shame to see this bridge demolished, but there is a piece of the bridge that was erected alongside Highway 22 (below) after it was taken down.
Below: From the vantage point of the photographer, the old road would have stretched straight ahead into the distance. The new highway bridge has no superstructure above the roadway, but you can see it on the left.
Although there is no longer a romantic steel bridge to see at this crossing, the scenery going down into the river valley is amazing and highly recommended. What do you know about the Lost Bridge of the Badlands? Please leave a comment below.
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