Monday, March 27, 2023

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Feature Story

Bridges of Des Moines


A history lesson and photographic feature on iconic local bridges

Cross a few of our city’s many pedestrian bridges and tour the unique backgrounds of these hidden (and some not-so-hidden) gems. From recognizing influential citizens to marking moments of history, these bridges have stories to tell and are beauties to behold. Read along and discover a new perspective on Des Moines sights.

Photo by Sofia Legaspi Dickens


The iconic arches of the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge are located at the northern edge of Principal Riverwalk Loop in downtown Des Moines. Simply known as the Center Street Pedestrian Bridge when constructed in 2010, it received its new name in 2013, when Principal Financial Group gifted the $10 million bridge to the City. The bridge splits into two pathways, with color-changing LEDs lighting the middle connecting path, where a plaque recognizes prominent Iowa women. Names are added each year by Women Lead Change.

Photo by Sofia Legaspi Dickens


Anchoring the south end of the Principal Riverwalk is the Union Railway Bridge, also known as the Red Bridge, dating back to 1891. It was restored to its current beauty in 2006, its original silver color replaced with its now-iconic red and cantilever lookout areas added for sightseeing and fishing. It was raised 4.5 feet in 2017 due to increased flood risks.

CNA - Stop HIV Iowa (March)

Photo by Sofia Legaspi Dickens


Spanning 496 feet across the Des Moines River, the Court Avenue Bridge opened in July 1917. To its north are three similar concrete arch bridges at Walnut Street (1907), Locust Street (1911) and Grand Avenue (1918); however, the bridge at Court Avenue was the only one to preserve its original ornamentation. It underwent rehabilitation in 1982, with globe streetlamps added in 1986. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.

Photo by Cameron Campbell


Visitors can enjoy the Des Moines skyline while escaping the downtown hustle and bustle via the Gray’s Lake Bridge. The city park opened in 2001 thanks to the vision of David and Elizabeth Kruidenier. The 2-mile Kruidenier Trail loops around the lake, highlighted by a 1,400-foot pedestrian bridge crossing over the water. A kaleidoscope of lights illuminates the wide pathway, reflected off multicolored dichroic glass panels.

Photo courtesy of Hubbell Realty


The Coleman Bridge crosses the Raccoon River and connects the Gray’s Station neighborhood with Gray’s Lake and Water Works Park. Named after a former Des Moines city councilmember and his wife — Chris and Marcie Coleman — this colorful 425-foot-long bridge was constructed in 2019. 

Photo by Sofia Legaspi Dickens


Built in 1898 and spanning the Raccoon River downtown, the Jackson Street Bridge is also known as the Southwest Fifth Street Bridge, the Green Bridge and the Jackson Avenue Bridge. The bridge closed in 2013 after a long and battle-filled history (see CITYVIEW’s story from June 2015, “Saving a Bridge”). Concerned citizens formed the Friends of Jackson Bridge, spearheaded by former city councilmember Carl Voss, and raised $2.3 million to save the structure. It reopened in 2016 as part of the Meredith Trail.

Photo by Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon – Rider Way Pedestrian Bridge over I-235, Des Moines, Iowa, CC BY-SA 2.0,


Dedicated in April 2006, the Rider Way Pedestrian Bridge crosses Interstate 235 near 44th Street and is one of three such bridges. It connects the neighborhood south of the interstate with Roosevelt High School and northern neighborhoods. The Iowa Department of Transportation sponsored a bridge-naming contest, with the winning name reflecting Roosevelt’s motto: “Respect and Responsibility – It’s the Rider Way.” ♦

Bridges beyond Des Moines 

Sixty-six color-changing LED lights illuminate the Raccoon River Valley Trail as it traverses an iron bridge built in 1899.

A project still in progress, the finished bridge will span the Raccoon River and connect two major parks and trail systems.

Not for pedestrians, but the historic Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad allows visitors to traverse this 156-foot-tall bridge via train or motorcar.

Including six historic covered bridges featured in the best-selling novel and film of the same name.

Reopened after three years, this long-awaited bridge (which also lights up at night) crosses Beaver Creek to connect Johnston and Des Moines.

A central Iowa must-see towering 13 stories high and overlooking the Des Moines River Valley, with 41 steel frames that illuminate in the evenings.

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