The Mendota Bridge carries State Highways 55 and 62 over the Minnesota River between Fort Snelling and Mendota Heights. It is the final bridge over the Minnesota River before the Minnesota flows into the Mississippi River at the "Meeting of the waters" or "Mendota" in the Dakota language.
History & significance
When it opened on November 8, 1926, the Mendota Bridge was the longest continuous concrete-arch bridge in the world, measuring 4,119 feet. Great fanfare occasioned the opening with a telegraph from President Calvin Coolidge. Two huge caravans of approximately 15,000 cars met in the center of the bridge and Minnesota Governor Theodore Christianson untied golden ropes for its formal opening. The bridge was dedicated to the “Gopher Gunners” of the 151st Field Artillery who died in World War I.
Replacing the old ferry which ran between Fort Snelling and the Village of Mendota since the mid-1800’s, the bridge cost $1,870,000 and was designed by Minneapolis engineer Walter H. Wheeler and nationally famous engineer C. A. P. Turner. Koss Construction Company supervised the project which took an average of 200 men two-and-one-half years to construct.
It is one of the most prominent of the Twin Cities’ nationally renowned concrete arch bridges of the 1920s. The bridge is within Fort Snelling State Park and the Fort Snelling Historic District, which is a National Historic Landmark.
- Fort Snelling
- Fort Snelling State Park
- Minnehaha Falls
Fort Snelling, a National Historic Landmark, resides on Dakota homeland, known as Bdote, with history spanning 10,000 years.
After more than two years of rehabilitation and improvements, the Minnesota Historical Society is excited to welcome back visitors to Historic Fort Snelling.
Explore the new Plank Museum & Visitor Center inside a rehabilitated 1904 cavalry barracks and experience expanded outdoor learning opportunities with stunning river overlooks, paved pathways, native plantings, enhanced interpretive spaces, and places to reflect.
Visit the museum to learn stories of the military fort and its surrounding area, home to a wide history that includes Native peoples, trade, soldiers and veterans, enslaved people, immigrants, and the changing landscape.
Fort Snelling State Park is a state park of the U.S. state of Minnesota, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. For many centuries, the area of the modern park has been of importance to the Mdewakanton Dakota people who consider it the center of the earth.
The state park, which opened in 1962, is named for the historic Fort Snelling, which dates from 1820. The fort structure is maintained and operated by the Minnesota Historical Society. The bulk of the state park preserves the bottomland forest, rivers, and backwater lakes below the river bluffs. Both the state and historic fort structure are part of the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, a National Park Service site.
As of 2005, the park hosts 400,000 visitors annually and contains the restored fort, a visitor center, 18 miles (29 km) of cross-country skiing trails, 18 miles (29 km) of hiking trails, and 5 miles (8.0 km) of biking trails. These trails connect the park to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Minnehaha Park, and regional trail systems like the Grand Rounds Scenic Byway and the Big Rivers Regional Trail. Minnesota State Highway 55 crosses over the park on the Mendota Bridge, and many jets taking off and landing at the Minneapolis–Saint Paul International Airport fly directly over the park.
At the beginning of historical times, Mdewakanton Dakota lived in this area. The confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers was to them the center of the world. In 1805 Lieutenant Zebulon Pike met with the Mdewakanton on the island between the two rivers and negotiated the purchase of land along the blufftops. The treaty site is now known as Pike Island. Details of Fort Snelling, which was built between 1820 and 1825 on the land Pike acquired, are contained in its own entry.
The soldiers from Fort Snelling had gardens, livestock, bakery, and boat storage sheds in the low river valley. After the Dakota War of 1862, over 1600 Dakota men, women, and children were forcibly confined in a camp in this area through the winter of 1862–1863, before being expelled to Nebraska. Over the winter, approximately 300 died due to malnutrition, disease, and exposure.