50,000 pound bridge hoisted into place as Pelican Rapids river, damsite transformation continues

The new pedestrian bridge, lifted across the Pelican River with the assistance of two cranes May 12.

By Louis Hoglund

At 50,000 pounds, Pelican’s newest bridge spans the rapids at a length of 120 feet.  

In a matter of hours, the structure was placed with precision on pre-constructed abutments—landing virtually the exact spot it was intended.

Good aim; by a couple of expert crane operators, one positioned on each side of the river.  

If there’s any doubt about where this bridge is located, there’s a pair of powder-coated steel signs, hung on each side of the structure.  Each sign weighed 600 pounds.  

Fabricated by TrueNorth Steel in Fargo, the bridge came in two sections—trucked in Friday morning.  

The north end of the bridge is pictured here, as crews inspect the placement.

The two sections were b bolted together on site.  The signs were also attached on shore, before the immense crane lifted the bridge across the river.  A second crane was then attached to gently place on the on the opposite side.  

Built with “weathering steel,” the special process will develop a “rust patina” that is virtually maintenance free. 

Residents need not be alarmed when the rust color starts to appear.  It is supposed to. The patina actually protects the metal, essentially permanently—and painting is never necessary.

Work remains, however, explained Wes Keller, houston Engineering.  

Tons of concrete will be poured on each side of the. bridge—and the walkway will be entirely poured concrete.  More concrete will be poured for the Pelican Pete platform, and for the walkways around the river and Pelican Pete site, noted Keller.    

There’s also additional grading work, and ultimately, there native grasses will be planted on the large amount of exposed shoreline, said Keller.  

The new pedestrian bridge was lifted across the Pelican River with the assistance of two cranes May 12.

“It will take a few years for the river to restore itself, and you’ll see some shifting,” said Keller.  Time will be necessary for the vegetation and native plantings to establish and flourish.  “It will require time and patience for everything to develop.” 

There’s already evidence that fish are now moving through the rapids, which was one of the primary motivations for  removing the dam.  The free flow of aquatic species, and restoring rivers to their more natural state, is a movement across the nation.  The rapids has already been “full of suckers” moving to spawning waters.  Now, suckers aren’t exactly a desireable species, but they are native to Minnesota.  If the suckers are free to move up and downstream, so are the walleyes—which are expected to be restored up and down the Pelican River spawning waters—with manmade dam obstructions removed.   

The bridge, dam demolition and reiver Restoration project involves more parties than can  be named, but topping the list ist the DNR, and restoration project engineer Houston Engineering, Fargo, along with the city of Pelican Rapids.  

 The overall general contractor is Rachel construction,  bridge contractor is Shroeder, the bridge fabrication company was True North Steel, and installation of the bridge was by a crew of steelworkers from E and J Steel Erectors, Ramsey.

Where’s Pete?
Renovators may start giant pelican ‘facelift’ this week

Workers prepare to strap the south end of the bridge to the crane, to lift it to the abutments.

Pelican Pete’s bridge is now in position…But where’s Pete?

The famous “World’s Largest Pelican” is in seclusion. Moved from his perch on the north side of the river for renovations off-site, the specialized contractors are expected to be here as soon as this weekend May 19-21. 

Repairing plaster, structural reinforcement, and other renovations will be completed before the statue is moved, said Wes Keller, Houston Engineering. 

A final coating will not be applied until after he is positioned on his new perch—on the south side of the river. 

Timeline is uncertain, but Pete is likely to return in time for the “Pelican Fest” July 6-8—maybe even as early as the Friendship Festival June 24.

How big is the new pedestrian bridge? 

50,000 pounds of steel, 120 feet long. 

As a comparison, consider the suspension bridge upstream, constructed in 1975-76 as a Pelican Rotary Club Project. 

A few key statistics on the Rotary suspension bridge:

  • Total walkway, 250 feet.
  • Weight of the steel, 44,000 pounds 
  • Bridge walkway, 100,000 pounds of concrete
  • Total weight, including concrete, 30-foot piers, 30-foot towers—400,000 pounds 

The new bridge will also have a poured concrete walkway, and lots of concrete at the abutments—but the total weight is yet to be determined.