Duluth lift bridge still captivating [UPDATED]Published 4:19am Monday, May 6, 2013 Updated 6:22am Monday, May 6, 2013
Every time I see the Aerial Lift Bridge in Duluth, I’m still enthralled even though I’ve seen this magnificent structure many times during my lifetime. A two-day conference brought us back to Duluth this year in late April.
The Aerial Lift Bridge, one of the most popular tourist attractions in Minnesota, was constructed in 1904-1905 as the Aerial Ferry Bridge. The original bridge consisted of much of today’s structure but, instead of the lift span, a suspended car (gondola) ferried people and vehicles on a one-minute trip across the canal.
The bridge first lifted for a vessel on March 29, 1930. Now, more than 80 years later, the Aerial Bridge lifts an average of 5,500 times a year. This procedure takes place more than 40 times a day during the summer months.
The historic bridge is owned and operated by the city of Duluth.
Adjacent to the Aerial Lift Bridge is Canal Park, a tourist and recreation-oriented district of Duluth. Many people from Otter Tail County are aware of just how wonderful it is to visit and stay at Canal Park. By late April people could again enjoy the outdoors after a long winter season.
Canal Park is a conversion of an old warehouse district into restaurants, shops and hotels. This conversion began in the 1980s. As noted on the city of Duluth’s website, an economic downturn in the 1970s necessitated some changes. That’s when city leaders concentrated on a prospective tourist industry.
Not far from the Aerial Lift Bridge and Canal Park is the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC) and Amsoil Arena, home of the University of Minnesota, Duluth, men’s and women’s hockey teams.
Grandma’s Marathon begins just outside of Two Harbors, along the North Shore of Lake Superior, and finishes in Duluth’s Canal Park near Grandma’s Restaurant and the Aerial Lift Bridge.
The first run for the marathon took place in 1977, with only 150 participants. Winning the first race was Minnesota native and 1976 Olympic participant Garry Bjorklund.
Grandma’s Restaurant was the only local business that would sponsor the then-fledgling event. Race organizers named the new race after the restaurant.
Grandma’s Marathon, to be held this year on Saturday, June 22, now has almost 10,000 runners every year.
Those who want some exercise at Canal Park can begin a 4.2-mile-long walk along Lake Superior.
Over the years we’ve also enjoyed visits to the Lake Superior Maritime Visitor Center and the Great Lakes Aquarium. I still need to visit the William A. Irvin floating ship museum near Canal Park.
Count me among the thousands of visitors each year who enjoy watching vessels from around the world enter Duluth’s port. It’s also inspirational to see the lighted Aerial Suspension Bridge during nighttime hours.
Late April also had us driving up the North Shore, past Two Harbors, and paying a visit to Gooseberry Falls State Park. The park’s close proximity to Duluth makes it perfect for a day trip and a must-stop during your travels along Highway 61.
Minnesota tourism leaders taut Gooseberry Falls as the gateway to the North Shore. It’s known for its spectacular waterfalls, river gorge, Lake Superior shoreline, log and stone structures and north woods wildlife.
Near the visitors center you can listen to the thunderous roar of the upper, middle and lower falls of the Gooseberry River as the water travels through a rocky gorge.
In 1996, I camped with one of my sons in a tent at Gooseberry Falls State Park. You could hear the waves, off in the distance, from the shores of Lake Superior.
If you like to hike, you can’t beat this location. Nature lovers will see evergreens, aspen and birch trees. If you want another adventure, Split Rock Lighthouse is located a few miles up the road.
For vacation planners, Duluth and the North Shore are calling.