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Meridian Highway Bridge
Meridian Bridge.jpg
Meridian Bridge as seen from Yankton trail.
Carries pedestrians, previously 2 lanes of US 81
Crosses Missouri River
Locale Yankton, South Dakota and Cedar County, Nebraska
Official name Meridian Highway Bridge
Maintained by City of Yankton, South Dakota
Design Vertical lift bridge double deck, Pratt through truss
Total length 3,013 feet
Width 33 feet
Longest span 1,668 feet
Clearance below feet
Opened 1924
Meridian Bridge
Meridian Highway Bridge is located in Nebraska
Meridian Highway Bridge
Location in Nebraska
Meridian Highway Bridge is located in the United States
Meridian Highway Bridge
Location in the United States
Nearest city South Yankton, Nebraska
Area 2.4 acres (0.97 ha)
Architectural style Prat vertical-lift truss
MPS Highway Bridges in Nebraska MPS
NRHP reference No. 93000537
Added to NRHP June 17, 1993

The Meridian Highway Bridge is a bridge that formerly carried U.S. Route 81 across the Missouri River between Nebraska and South Dakota. The Meridian Highway Bridge connects Yankton, South Dakota with rural Cedar County, Nebraska. The Meridian Bridge is a double deck bridge, with the top level having carried traffic into South Dakota from Nebraska, and the lower level having carried traffic into Nebraska from South Dakota.


The bridge crosses the Missouri River, connecting Yankton, South Dakota to the north with Cedar County, Nebraska to the south. Prior to the construction of the bridge, traffic moved between these two points via a ferry service, started in 1870, and a seasonal pontoon bridge, first installed in 1890. The pontoon bridge was disassembled and rebuilt twice a year, once to float on open water, and once to be placed on solid ice. After a 1915 initiative to build a permanent bridge faltered with the U.S. entrance into World War I, a new effort was started by the Yankton Chamber of Commerce 1919. Though fundraising problems caused a temporary halt in 1922, the new bridge, featuring a movable span to allow for river navigation, was completed during the summer of 1924.

The dedication ceremony was held on October 11, 1924 and the bridge opened as a toll bridge. It was the last link of the Meridian Highway, which became U.S. Route 81, to be completed. It was designed for use by trains on the lower level of the bridge and vehicular traffic on the upper level; a lift mechanism allowed river traffic to pass below. However, trains never used the lower level. In 1953, all tolls were lifted and the two levels were converted to one-way traffic: northbound on the top, southbound on the bottom. In the 1980s, the lift mechanism and counterweights were removed, and the decorative iron railings on the upper level were replaced by Jersey barricades.

The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

On May 9, 2008, a 10-ton gross weight limit was placed on the bridge after an inspection found corrosion on the gusset plates. It was replaced by the Discovery Bridge upon its opening on October 11, 2008, exactly 84 years after the dedication of the Meridian Highway Bridge.

The bridge was used as location for filming a scene of the 2016 film Until Forever.

Present and future use

With completion of the Discovery Bridge, the Meridian Bridge has been converted into a pedestrian/bike trail. The bridge reopened in November 2011 to non-motorized traffic only. A two block-long pedestrian plaza has been added.

The bridge spans the Missouri National Recreational River, a unit of the National Park Service created under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

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