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Meridian Bridge

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1924, Harrington, Howard and Ash. Across Missouri River between Yankton, SD, and Cedar County, NE.
  • (Photograph by Michelle Dennis)

The Meridian Bridge was the first permanent crossing over the Missouri River connecting downtown Yankton, South Dakota, with rural Cedar County, Nebraska. Prior to its construction, transportation across the river relied either on ferry service or a seasonal pontoon bridge. Plans to build a permanent bridge began in the late 1910s but this structure was not erected until 1924. It was one of the last major links on the Meridian Highway (later U.S. 81), which extended from the Canadian border in North Dakota to the Mexican border in Texas.

The bridge is a double-deck, riveted Pratt through truss with a vertical lift. It sits on concrete abutments and piers and includes seven steel girder shore spans on the north end and twelve on the south end. The total length of the bridge is 3,013 feet, and the roadway measures 33 feet wide. The lift measures 250 feet long and raises to a maximum of 27 feet. The upper deck carried vehicular traffic while the lower deck was designed for the railroad. The latter was never used for trains, however, and was ultimately converted for vehicular use in 1953. The vertical lift was deactivated in the 1980s.

After the completion of the Discovery Bridge (2008) immediately to the west, the Meridian Bridge was converted for use as a pedestrian/bicycle trail in 2011, with a pedestrian plaza at the foot of the Yankton side. The trail is one of 22 in the Meridian Trail System, which covers over 40 miles in Yankton and the Lewis and Clark Lake area to the west.


Roise, Charlene K., and Jeffrey A. Hess. “Meridian Bridge,” Yankton County, South Dakota. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1993. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

Writing Credits

Michelle L. Dennis



  • 1924

  • 1953

    Lower deck converted for vehicular use
  • 1980

    Lift deactivated
  • 2011

    Converted to pedestrian/bicycle trail

What's Nearby


Michelle L. Dennis, "Meridian Bridge", [Yankton, South Dakota], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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