125 Years After Its Famous Namesakes Passed By, This Bridge Was Dedicated

July 9, 1930

A bridge was officially opened in northeastern Montana to a great deal of fanfare. The new structure, spanning the Missouri River between McCone and Roosevelt counties in the Big Sky Country, was named the Lewis and Clark Bridge. (In May 1805, the Corps of Discovery Expedition led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark traveled through the region while en route to the west coast.) The bridge is located six miles (9.7 kilometers) southeast of the city of Wolf Point.

Detail of the structure from a National Park Service report on the bridge, c. 1997.

The bridge (also known as Wolf Point Bridge) is a type of steel truss bridge more specifically classified as a Pennsylvania through-bridge, which features vertical members and diagonals sloping down towards the center and also includes half-length struts. It was built by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company and was the first one constructed across the Missouri River in the vicinity of Wolf Point. At the time of its debut, it was also the only year-round vehicular crossing for the river for a stretch of 350 miles (563.3 kilometers).

The opening of the bridge proved to be a major event and included a parade, a total of five bands, and a daytime fireworks display. Thousands of people from as far away as the North Dakota city of Minot (222 miles, or 357.3 kilometers, to the east) turned out for the festivities.

The dignitaries in attendance included Montana Governor John E. Erickson, who proclaimed during his remarks that the new structure was more than just another bridge “for it represents the triumph of the pioneering spirit which must still prevail in Montana if the commonwealth is to occupy its destined place in the Union.” Vera Smith, a member of a longtime family in the area, formally christened the bridge.

The Lewis and Clark Bridge was welcomed as an important and long overdue link in Montana’s transportation network. “Seen at a distance of 15 miles [24.1 kilometers] this massive structure appears as vaporous as the ethereal substance of which dreams are made,” asserted the Wolf Point Herald shortly before the opening of the bridge. “And it is a dream, a dream that came true.” In 1997, the bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

For more information on the Lewis and Clark Bridge (Wolf Point Bridge), please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_and_Clark_Bridge_(Wolf_Point,_Montana) and https://npgallery.nps.gov/NRHP/GetAsset/NRHP/97001451_text.

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