The Story Behind Iowa's High Trestle Trail Bridge

Photo of Jason Palmer
26 February 2020

The High Trestle Trail Bridge in Iowa is a stunning piece of architecture that manages to be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. The decorative light tunnel is a real point of interest and delivers some stunning views as you walk through it. Here’s everything you need to know.

What is the High Trestle Trail Bridge?

At around 130ft (40m) high and spanning nearly half a mile (770m) long, the High Trestle Trail Bridge is an impressive sight. It is said to be among the largest trail bridges in the world, and in 2015 the BBC classed it as one of the eight best footbridges to walk in the world.

High Trestle is a 25mi (40km)-long trail that winds its way through five of Iowa’s towns – namely Woodward, Madrid, Slater, Sheldahl and Ankeny. It provides scenic views of the Des Moines River Valley and is located close to the famous mining shafts that provided pivotal work for immigrant communities and those who settled nearby back in the day.

Best viewed when the sun goes down, High Trestle lights up the sky | © Culture Trip

The design of the High Trestle Trail Bridge

As well as being called the High Trestle Bridge, Iowa Mining Bridge or just simply Iowa Bridge, it’s also known as the Iowa Light Bridge.

The bridge decking incorporates illuminated frames that simulate the descent through a mineshaft, from the point of view of the miners. The attractive design’s decorative lighting remains on between dusk and midnight (when it’s best viewed) and lights up the area as a beacon of living history. The end result is a stunning sensory journey as you walk across it, as well as providing the landscape with a futuristic light installation that marries the old with the new.

The history of the High Trestle Trail Bridge

It was originally built in the 1970s to carry rail traffic, but with the retirement of that rail line in the early 2000s, the original bridge deck was removed. The trestles remained, and after a big effort from local businesses and Iowa’s Arts Council to get the project running, it now supports new decking that’s been designed as a bicycle path and pedestrian footway.

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