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The old bridge had character
Random Thoughts - May 5, 2022
Second of three Muscoda bridges
THIS IMAGE shows the second of three bridges that cross the Wisconsin River at Muscoda. Local citizens fought hard to have the State build this, the first 'free' bridge at the site, to replace the original ferries and toll bridge, and it's completion was cause for great celebrations in the community.

MUSCODA - At the April meeting of the Lower Wisconsin State Riverway Board, Mark Cupp, Executive Director, gave the group a history lesson regarding the Wisconsin River bridges at Muscoda and their importance to the community and area, starting in the 1800s.

A resulting story in the April 21 issue of this newspaper included a dramatic photograph taken December 12, 1929. Featured in the picture is a new bridge with a high lift span wide open, which promoters at that time must have hoped would permit large, tall boats to come and go using the Wisconsin River here. That bridge served this community until 1989, perhaps with the lift span never needed or opened again.

However, the huge counter weight that hovered over the lift span did serve a purpose. The structure became a picturesque bridge for photographers. Through the years I snapped at few shutters with the bridge in the background.

In theory, the lift span would permit tall boats to travel under the bridge. But the need for such a span never came. My favorite photograph of that quandary came during a summer dry period when tall boats could only be a dream.

I enlisted the help of a riverbank resident, the late Rev. Wilson Emigholz. He walked barefoot into the river and onto the large flat rock located just upstream from the lift span. He illustrated, with his big toe, the need for more water in the Wisconsin River, to float any kind of craft.

Through the years I found other reasons to include the lift span in pictures – sometimes it was sunset shots of canoes, etc. That bridge had interesting character. Modern bridges that look like another section of highway have little character.

In 1958, during the first days of August when Vi and I were in Muscoda, we traveled across the 1929 bridge and spotted what appeared to be a car that somehow had ended up in the river – a news story.

However, we soon learned the green car had been parked on a big flat rock, in about four inches of water, being washed by owner Lee Hiles of Muscoda. He was doing something that was not unusual at that time, near the bridge that had character.

The 1929 bridge served the community well, but it did have problems. During the years cars and trucks became wider, but the bridge didn’t and the time came when a couple of farm trucks meeting on the bridge could be a challenge. Some local folks feared the bridge enough they would drive to Blue River to cross on a wider Wisconsin River bridge.

And I recall taking a picture of the 1929 lift span, looking from the river up – through a large hole that had opened in the road above. It showed at lot of blue sky and a local high school boy looking down at me – not a wanted character for a bridge.

Now, for me, the bridge in the area with the most character is the one that spans the Mississippi River, joining Wisconsin and Lansing, Iowa. The structure is long and high, with a wonderful view of the river – and a lot of character.