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What is Valley City's "Historic Bridges Tour," and what can you see on it?

Also deemed North Dakota's Most Beautiful Town, Valley City should be your next stop on your North Dakota road trip. Take the Historic Bridges Tour, and see why Valley City boasts the name "City of Bridges."

Hi-Line Bridge Valley City

Coined the "City of Bridges," Valley City has been capturing the attention of North Dakota's tourists for decades. Valley City was founded in 1872 with the name of Second Crossing of the Sheyenne when the Northern Pacific railroad crossed the river here. When a town is built around a winding river, bridges become very necessary. Valley City is very proud of its beautiful and historic bridges - follow along the Historic Bridges Tour with us!

The Hi-Line Bridge is a symbol of the community and the inspiration for the Valley City High School team name - "The Hi-Liners."

Stop 1: West City Park Bridge

West City Park Bridge Valley City

This bridge was built in 1929 and is similar to the East Park Bridge which was built in 1925. The west City Park Bridge was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

The 9.25 acres of land known as City Park was first owned by the Northern Pacific then purchased by land developer B.W. Benson. In 1879, Benson had it cleared of its thick underbrush and platted for development with residential properties along the river. The center was set aside for a park. Later, Benson sold the rest to the city creating the city park as we know it.

The zoo, street, wading pool, and fountain are gone but tennis courts and a playground have been added and concerts are still

Stop 2: City Park Footbridge

City Park Footbridge Valley City

With a bridge built connecting it to Main Street, the park became a center of recreational activities such as picnicking, boating, quiet reading, strolling and carriage rides on the street that once followed along the riverside. Several state GAR encampments were held here in the early years. A zoo was installed circa 1910 containing buffalo, bears, deer, elk, eagles, etc. A band shell was the site of Sunday concerts of the Community Band. A profusion of flower beds and a fountain adorned the park and there was a wading pool to entertain the kiddies. In the winter, a community skating rink was located below the footbridge.

Originally a wooden bridge, it was replaced with a steel structure in the 1880’s. The current walk bridge was built in 1911. It is sometimes called the Elks Bridge as the beautiful Elks building directly to the east was also built at that time

Stop 3: VCSU Footbridge

VCSU Footbridge Valley City

A wooden footbridge (originally a single plank width with rope handrails) across the Sheyenne opened in the fall of 1892, linking the college to the city. As there were no dormitories on campus at the time and most students lived on the opposite side of the river, a bridge was a necessity. However, this bridge had to be taken up nearly every year when the ice went off the river, causing expense and inconvenience.

The current ornate bridge was built in 1901. It is a three-span, 150 foot long suspension bridge—the only one of its kind in North Dakota. This bridge has always been a popular gathering place in the community for young and old alike. The Valley City State Normal School Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.

Stop 4: Mill Dam Bridge

Mill Dam Bridge Valley City

The original bridge in this location was a wooden structure built in 1898. This was replaced in the winter of 1936-37 with a reinforced concrete structure with a railing similar to the City Park bridges. This second bridge was built by T. M. Swingen & Son and when it was replaced in 1991, the present concrete bridge was built by his grandson, Jim Swingen.

Located to the east next to the dam was the first flour mill built in Valley City built in 1878. The original output of the mill was only a few hundredweight of flour per day but the company eventually became the fourth largest milling firm in the nation. Additional mills as well as 150 country elevators and terminal elevators across the central United States were built or acquired with a combined capacity of 18,000,000 bushels. The mill closed its doors in 1963 when its operations were moved to other company mills in Minot and Grand Forks.

Stop 5: Rainbow Bridge

Rainbow Bridge Valley City

This is the sight of the first bridge built in Valley City. Prior to the building of this first bridge a river crossing was located slightly upstream from here. Locally known as Morrison’s Ford, travelers rode or drove their wagons through the river to reach the other side.

The cut in the bridge bank to the north is the location of the Northern Pacific railroad bridge which gave the town its first name of Second Crossing of the Sheyenne. The first train crossed here on September 15, 1872.

The original East Main Bridge was a wooden structure built in 1879. When the wooden bridge was deemed unsafe, it was replaced by a steel structure in 1899. The current bridge was built in 1925-26. This bridge is unique in that concrete arches carry the weight. It is the only one of its kind in North Dakota, one of the few “Rainbow Arch” bridges still in use today, and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. The bridge weighs an estimated 1,655 tons

Stop 6: Hospital Bridge

Hospital bridge Valley City

This 3-span, 255 foot bridge, featuring a poured concrete deck and superstructure on rolled steel girders with pilings extending 70 feet below the substructure, was built in 1982.

The original wooden bridge was built in 1929 to easier access the Country Club and Northwest Nursery farm. The bridge was virtually rebuilt in 1954 before being replaced by the present concrete structure.

Stop 7: High-Line (Hi-Line) Bridge

Hi-Line Bridge

The original line of the Northern Pacific Railroad descended into the valley from the east, crossed the Sheyenne River at Valley City over a low bridge and climbed out of the valley to the west. Because of the depth of the valley, the grades on either side of the river were severe. To avoid these severe grades, this new or “High Line” was built one mile upstream.

At 3,860 feet long and 162 feet above the river bed, the Highline Bridge is one of the longest and highest single track railroad bridges in the nation. Work began on June 30, 1906. The first official train crossed the trestle on May 12, 1908 and regular train service over the bridge began May 20th.

Because the bridge was of vital importance in moving supplies and men, it was closely guarded during both World Wars to prevent sabotage. In World War 1, the

bridge was guarded by Company H North Dakota National Guard of Jamestown. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, volunteers from the American Legion, VFW, city and railroad personnel took up the watch until Company F of the North Dakota State Guard was officially mustered in.

Engineering facts:

  • 14,000,000 pounds of steel were used

  • 380,000 field rivets were used on location, excluding those used in the preassembled sections which were shipped from the factory

  • 10,000 cubic feet of concrete was used in the piers supporting the steel columns

  • 80,000 linear feet of wood piling was used under the piers for added stability

  • 160 men were employed in its construction

  • $750,000 was expended on the bridge, more than $1.5 million on the entire cutoff project

Stop 8: Maryvale Bridge

Maryvale Bridge

A wooden bridge was originally built at this site in 1935. Damaged over the years by farm traffic and occasional flooding, the bridge was reconstructed in 1969 and then totally replaced in 1995.

Maryvale is the Provincial Center for the Sisters of Mary of the Presentation for the United States Province. The Sisters of Mary of the Presentation is a Roman Catholic religious women’s community founded in 1828 in Broons, France.

Maryvale serves as a place of Formation for women who desire to enter Religious Life and as a retirement center for the Sisters and was built in 1965. The physical layout of the building with the chapel in the center is a symbol of the God-centered lives which all are called to lead—lives dedicated to the service of God and neighbor. The Maryvale facility also includes a Hospitality Center and Spiritual Life Center.

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