Meridian Bridge

a steel bridge over river in snow.

Yankton's Meridian Bridge. NPS Photo

Quick Facts
Missouri National Recreational River
National Register of Historic Places

Benches/Seating, Parking - Auto, Scenic View/Photo Spot, Wheelchair Accessible

The historic structure most readily visible from Yankton's riverfront is the Meridian Bridge. It is notable as the first permanent river crossing in the Yankton vicinity and as one of the final links in the Meridian Highway, an early north-south route from Winnipeg, Canada, to Mexico City, Mexico. The vertical lift design was a typical period engineering solution to a typical problem of spanning a wide navigable river, and thus did not garner much attention in engineering circles in the 1920s. The region's population, however, considered it an outstanding bridge engineering accomplishment that greatly improved economic and social connections across the Nebraska and South Dakota border.

The Meridian Bridge, officially dedicated on October 11, 1924, was from the first a symbol of local pride, in large part because it had been conceived and built under local leadership. It appeared on souvenir medals and postcards. For many years, Yankton held the local nickname of "Bridge City." The community even considered December 1, 1952, a day of celebration when the wife of former bridge company executive Deloss Gurney paid the last toll and the bridge became officially debt free.

On October 11, 2009, a new Discovery Bridge was opened to traffic. The Meridian Bridge was closed and soon underwent conversion to pedestrian/bike use. In November 2011 it opened for recreational use. Hiking, biking, running or walking across the bridge is a popular outdoor activity in the Yankton area.

Yankton is the "Mother City" of Dakota, having been settled in 1858. The Meridian bridge was designed for vehicular and railroad crossings--the upper level for cars and the lower level for trains. However, railroad track was never laid and the trains never ran. Built entirely with private funds, the Yankton community officially dedicated the bridge on October 11, 1924. The bridge was the last segment of a highway stretching from the Canadian border to Mexico. This highway is today also known as the Pan American Highway and extends some 17,000 miles down to the southern tip of South America. 

Learn more about the bridge by visiting the Missouri National Recreational River Meridian Bridge page. 

Missouri National Recreational River

Last updated: August 27, 2020