7 bridges that Iowans either love or hate

Over the years, I’ve photographed and posted online about many of Iowa’s unique bridges and I’ve discovered that there are a number of bridges that Iowans love – or – hate.

1. Black Hawk Bridge in Lansing, Iowa

At the top of the most loved and most hated list is the Black Hawk Bridge in Lansing, Iowa. Nestled in the far northeast corner of Iowa, the bridge crosses the Mississippi River and connects to Wisconsin. If you haven’t made the trip to this bridge, you better hurry up. The Iowa Department of Transportation will soon start replacing this bridge and will eventually take this bridge down. Although the new bridge will look very similar to the current bridge, at least from a distance, the up-close details might eventually take it off the hated list.

Address: Intersection of Great River Road and Highway 82 in Lansing, Iowa

Type of bridge: Auto bridge with 2 narrow lanes

Why we love the Black Hawk Bridge:

  • The bridge is beautiful, the entire area is beautiful. In fact, it makes you wonder if you’re actually in Iowa.
  • Sometimes it’s called “the singing bridge”, part attributed to the sing part of Lansing, but mostly attributed to the sound that is created by vehicles traveling over the unique deck of the bridge. In fact, you can park under the bridge on the Iowa side and listen to the bridge as it “sings”.
  • Motorcycle fans will also love or hate this bridge – although many I have talked to love it because of the gorgeous view and because you can see through the deck down to the river.
  • The Black Hawk Bridge was featured in a scene from the movie The Straight Story when Alive Straight drove his riding lawn mower from Iowa to Wisconsin.
  • We love it when the bridge is lit up at night!

Why we hate the Black Hawk Bridge:

  • It’s narrow. The current width is just under 20 feet. There’s not much room for error.
  • The deck of the floor is not solid, it’s grated. This means you can see through the bridge deck down below to the river.
  • The other obvious reason is the height, as you drive up a ramp to get to the bridge and the height above the river is another frequent reason the drive is hated.
  • The sound. While some folks love the sound created when vehicles drive over the bridge, others say this is the reason they fear the bridge.
The deck is grated, which means you can see down through the floor to the river. The deck is also narrow, less than 20 feet for both lanes.

The Blak Hawk Bridge at night in Lansing, Iowa.
YouTube video
A short video showing the drive across the Black Hawk Bridge in Lansing, Iowa

2. Swinging Bridge at Thunder Woman Park in Janesville, Iowa

If the idea of looking through the deck of the Black Hawk Bridge in Lansing is frightening to you – then this bridge will also set you over the edge. Since it is a pedestrian-only bridge, you not only have to deal with height and the bridge movement, you also have to deal with being able to see through the bridge down to the river.

Address: Winslow Rd, Janesville, IA 50647

Type of bridge: Pedestrian bridge only.

Why we love the swinging bridge in Janesville:

  • It’s adventurous, as the bridge moves and swings
  • Some of the swinging bridges in Iowa cross ravines only, but this bridge crosses the West Fork Cedar River.

Why we hate the swinging bridge in Janesville:

  • The bridge is old, rusty metal. And when it starts to swing, you’ll hear the sound from metal as it moves – which is not the most comforting sound
  • Like the Black Hawk Bridge in Lansing, the floor is grated which means you can see through the floor down to the river. This is the only swinging bridge in the state of Iowa with a grated floor.
  • If you’re afraid of heights, as well as having to climb the stairs just to get on the bridge.

The bridge at Thunder Woman Park is entirely made of metal and makes quite the noise when it swings.
YouTube video
A short video showing the walk across the bridge at Thunder Woman Park in Janesville, Iowa

3. Lovers Leap Swinging Bridge in Columbus Junction, Iowa

Definitely the best-known and most popular swinging bridge in the state of Iowa, it’s called the “leap” by the locals. It’s been around since 1886, although it’s been rehabbed many times since. At 262 feet in length, its the longest swinging bridge in the state and certainly has the most “swing” or sway.

Address: 303 Oak St, Columbus Junction, IA 52738

Type of bridge: Pedestrian bridge only, although I would not doubt that few youngin’s from Columbus Junction have tried to ride across this bridge on their bike.

Why we love Lovers Leap Swinging Bridge:

  • It has a cool history and even some myths that helped give it its name. There’s no question that its the best swinging bridge in Iowa.
  • Of all the swinging bridges in Iowa, its the longest and has the most “swing”
  • It’s an adventure. Even if you don’t cross, you’ll have fun watching other people as they decide if they can handle it or not.

Why we hate Lovers Leap Swinging Bridge:

  • It’s the most Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom like bridge that we have in the state.
  • As soon as you start to get 4 or more people on the bridge, that’s when things start to get really interesting.
YouTube video

4. Mile-long bridge over Lake Red Rock in Marion County, Iowa

Long bridges over water are traditionally loved or hated, and this bridge is no exception. It right at a mile in distance and cuts across Iowa’s largest lake, Lake Red Rock in Marion County.

Address: 670-698 IA-14, Otley, IA 50214

Type of bridge: Auto bridge with 2 narrow lanes

Why we love the mile-long bridge over Lake Red Rock:

  • It’s scenic. Once you are on the bridge, the view of the lake opens up.

Why we hate the mile-long bridge over Lake Red Rock:

  • If you don’t like long bridges over water, then this isn’t the bridge for you.
  • For many people, it feels narrow and they feel confined.
YouTube video
Driving across the mile-long bridge over Lake Red Rock in Marion County, Iowa
Sunrise over the mile-long bridge in Marion County, Iowa

5. Swinging Bridge in Estherville, Iowa

Estherville is a classic swinging bridge, but with more than average swing. Historically, its also been around for quite a few years and has been rehabbed many times. I’ve even heard from locals that kids will ride their bikes across this bridge on their way to the swimming pool.

Address: 21 N 1st St, Estherville, IA 51334

Type of bridge: Pedestrian only

Why we love the swinging bridge in Estherville:

  • It’s a classic swinging bridge with more than average swing.
  • It’s a pretty setting over the Des Moines River.

Why we hate the swinging bridge in Estherville:

  • Because it swings more than the average swinging bridge. Although I have to admit, its kinda fun watching people walk up to the bridge thinking they can handle it, then about 10 feet in, they start to realize that they may not have the nerves to take it on.
YouTube video

6. Any wood-planked bridge on a gravel road in Iowa.

For the purpose of this post, I’ll focus on Landis Road Bridge near Anamosa, Iowa – however, you could substitute any gravel road with a wood-planked bridge in Iowa. Unfortunately, Landis Road Bridge is now closed, as of the summer of 2022, I believe. I’m not sure if they are planning to demo it or repair it, but for the purpose of love vs hate, this bridge is/was perfect.

Address: Near the intersection of 95th Street and Landis Road, Anamosa, Iowa

Type of bridge: Auto bridge with basically one narrow lane

Why we love Landis Road Bridge:

  • It’s historical and picturesque
  • Each trip across was an adventure, whether you walked or drove across.

Why we hate Landis Road Bridge:

  • With wood-planked floors, every trip across the bridge was either an adventure or a scare. As you drive across, you would begin to question if the planks were actually bolted to the bridge.
  • It’s narrow going across the bridge and you would pray that no one else was coming from the other direction.
  • At night, your headlights would highlight the fact that wood planks were not perfect – and that the floor was very uneven
  • As if the motion from the boards wasn’t enough, the sounds that the bridge made as you crossed was enough for most people to start praying a Hail Mary.
Landis Road Bridge at night with the fog starting to roll in
Nothing creepy to see here. Notice how the background light highlights how uneven the wood planks are

7. Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridges in Council Bluffs, Iowa

It’s a 3,000 foot pedestrian bridge that connects Omaha and Council Bluffs. On the Council Bluffs side, they have done a good job developing the area and using to for concerts and other events.

Address: 4250 River’s Edge Parkway, Council Bluffs, IA

Type of bridge: Pedestrian and bike path

Why we love the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge:

  • Architecturally it’s a beautiful structure with sweeping curves and a wide pathway.
  • In the middle of the bridge is a line with IOWA and NEBRASKA – encouraging you to put a foot in each state at the same time.
  • On the Omaha side, under the bridge look for Omar the bridge troll.

Why we hate Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge:

  • First of all, the Bob Bridge is a very safe structure – and it’s designed to handle high winds. However, how it handles the wind is what draws concern for some folks. When the winds kicks up, the entire bridge swings with the wind. As you’re standing 50 feet per the river, you can feel the entire bridge moving with the wind, which is enough for some folks to make this a one-time-only visit.
  • Some hate the bridge for political reasons, how much was spent on it, or calling it a bridge to nowhere. However, I think it’s also important that from the Iowa Road Trip perspective, the bridge leads us to Nebraska. We’ve heard that Nebraska isn’t for everyone.
The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge connects Council Bluffs with Omaha, Nebraska

With the addition of led lights at night, the path continues to be a popular walking and biking trail.
The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge

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  1. Such a shame that the beautiful Black Hawk Bridge over the Mississippi River at Lansing is to be replaced. It’s one of the outstanding bridges across the entire length of the river, and perhaps Iowa’s most notable single bridge. Lansing is going to lose its major tourist attraction.