Return to Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Fairview Lift Bridge is a place we’ve visited before, but the last time we were there, the sky was full of smoke from wildfires, so we promised ourselves we would go back again when we got another chance, and that chance came in July, 2017. We had just learned that the adjoining Cartwright Tunnel, the only railroad tunnel in the state of North Dakota, was in danger of implosion if funding couldn’t be raised for a restoration, so that became another excuse to visit this rusty beauty spanning the Yellowstone River.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Fairview Lift Bridge was built in 1912 and 1913. You can read more about it here. There is a twin bridge which spans the Missouri River, 9 miles away, near Snowden, Montana. We visited that one, too, but there is no access to the railbed at Snowden. Fairview has been turned into a footbridge, and the access to beautiful North Dakota vistas from the bridge is excellent.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

It’s not uncommon to see sport boats, personal watercraft, and water skiers on the Yellowstone at Fairview Bridge, but it was just one happy fisherman on the day we visited in 2017.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel
Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Above: Looking down on an island in the Yellowstone River from the Fairview Lift Bridge.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Our first look at Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel came from R. David Adams, who contributed this album of photos in 2011.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel
Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

According to this blog, the Cartwright Tunnel was endangered as of summer, 2017. (There is a Friends of the Fairview Bridge page here.) In short, the tunnel is starting to crumble after a century, and it needs to be repaired to the tune of $2-plus-million. If the funds can’t be raised, it will likely be imploded.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Someone proposed: Get a hundred people to walk through the tunnel and across the bridge, at night, holding smartphones, flashlights, and lanterns. Film it with a professional video crew, and make it viral famous to raise awareness about the need for funds to maintain the bridge and restore the tunnel. A hundred little lights stretching across the bridge at night…

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

There is a video from our last visit to the area which includes our walk through the tunnel.

Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Photos by Troy Larson and Terry Hinnenkamp, copyright © 2017 Sonic Tremor Media

6 Comments on “Return to Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

  1. So glad I visited your website first. I’m planning to visit this location in the next few days. I figured you might have visited and would have good information. While it’s sad about the tunnel, I’m inspired to make sure I really do justice to it so I can record a little bit of history before it’s gone.

    I would hope it can be saved, but at a $2 million price, I’m not sure that will happen.

  2. I visited. Totally worth it! I’ll be taking my parents up there when they visit in October. I filmed a full video of the trip up and back that included 20 minutes of the bridge and tunnel.

    If you search online, there are also several great videos made by drones flying over the bridge.

    Now I really hope the tunnel can be saved, and I like the idea proposed in the article.

  3. It makes me sad to hear of the problems of the tunnel.
    last summer was my second visit in 3 years to the site, having never been there until I retired. last summer we brought powerful flashlights so we could really see the tunnel interior, that is when we noticed all the support beans split and broken at the top, I suspect from winter frost heave pushing on the structure.. I seem to remember reading that the tunnel was restored previously when the ND National guard did it as a construction training project, Maybe they would consider helping with the repairs ?

  4. My Dad was from Cartwright . I have a picture of the Log Cabin he was born in .
    My Mom from Williston .
    Thank You for the History

  5. Is there any ongoing funding site or organization raising funds to restore the tunnel?

  6. I’m from Williston, been to both the snowden and Fairview bridges many times over the years. My grandmother used to cross the snowden bridge when she worked in Sydney, I was told there was a person who worked in the booth that would allow cars to pass through it.

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