Big River Magazine
Mississippi River stories and news
May-June 2008
News excerpts and Links

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Pedal & Paddle the River

The Tour De Pepin, on June 7, offers bikers three options: a 15-mile ride from Lake City to Wabasha, Minn.; a 32-mile ride from Lake City to Stockholm, Wis.; and a 72-mile ride the around Lake Pepin along the Great River Road. Options include shuttle service back to Lake City. Those who ride the 32-mile tour can return on the Pearl of the Lake paddleboat. To register, visit the Tour de Pepin website.

• If you don’t want to paddle, this year you can pedal your way from Coon Rapids Dam Regional Park to Grey Cloud Island in this summer’s Mississippi River Challenge, a two-day event sponsored by the Friends of the Mississippi River. The fifth annual challenge, July 26 and 27, includes an overnight campout at Fort Snelling State Park. To register for the fundraising event, visit the Friends’ website.

• Great River Rumble paddlers will travel 108 miles down three rivers from Menomonie to La Crosse, Wis. The seven-day trip from July 26 to Saturday, August 2, will begin on the Red Cedar River, enter the Chippewa River, then paddle the last three days on the Mississippi. Paddlers can sign up for any segment of the trip. Find more information on the River Rumble website.

What’s Brewing?

Potosi, Wis. — The old Potosi Brewing Company building will open in early June with a microbrewery, restaurant/pub, a Great River Road interpretive center and a national brewing museum.

“We have been on an amazing path, against all nay-sayers who said it never would happen,” said David Fritz, a project donor.

In 1999, a group of three people secured the four-story building, which had been vacant since the brewery shut down in 1972. A nonprofit group, the Potosi Brewery Foundation, formed to raise money and to oversee the restoration. It has raised $4.5 million from about 400 donors and plans to raise about $2.6 million more to pay off loans.

The interpretive center features the Potosi Transportation Museum, which tells the story of transportation through the lens of the old brewing company. Potosi Brewing Co. owned a steamship, which was rare, if not unknown, for a brewery.

The National Brewing Museum is the only museum of its type in the nation. The American Breweriana Association, the largest beer-related collectors’ group in North America, selected Potosi for the site of its new museum.

The microbrewery will make 3,000 barrels of beer a year, to be served in the restaurant and to sold in bottles and kegs. The restaurant will seat 90 to 100 people. The 30-foot, hand-carved bar took carpenter Gary David nearly nine months to complete. Architects incorporated the original spring-fed pond, which furnished water to the old brewery, in an outdoor dining area.

Across the road, at a privately owned convention center, a silo has been transformed into a 40-foot cone-top beer can. Potosi Brewery Restoration Project

Bridge Updates

St. Cloud, Minn. — Two old bridges across the Mississippi River in Minnesota will be torn down and replaced, because the Minnesota Department of Transportation found critical flaws. The DeSoto Bridge on Highway 23 in St. Cloud and the Highway 61 Bridge in Hastings, Minn., have moved to the top of the list for replacement.

Bridge inspectors closed the bridge in St. Cloud in late March after discovering that gusset plates in four parts of the bridge had bent about a quarter of an inch. They weren’t taking any chances. Under-sized gusset plates have been implicated in the collapse of the I-35W Bridge in Minneapolis on August 1, 2007, that killed 13 people.

Bridge traffic, which had averaged about 31,000 vehicles a day, was re-rerouted. The 890-foot bridge, which was built in 1957, had been scheduled for replacement in 2015. It will now be demolished this summer and replaced by 2009.

Forty-five miles south of the Twin Cities, the 58-year-old Hastings bridge will now be replaced by 2010, moved up from 2020. It is one of the most heavily traveled in the state, with about 32,000 vehicles crossing it each day. The latest inspection rating had dropped from 49.1 to 38.1 on a 100 point scale, due to severe corrosion since the last inspection.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) investigation of the Minneapolis I-35W Bridge collapse is scheduled for completion at the end of the year. Among other things, the investigation is trying to determine how the apparent gusset-plate design error occurred and why it was not discovered. The NTSB is also developing computer models and a 1/200th scale model to explore the bridge’s structure.

In the meantime, the NTSB has advised the Federal Highway Administration to require bridge owners to update load capacity calculations to include modifications and other changes to the bridges since they were built, then to recalculate the load carrying capacity of the gusset plates.

Watch the new I-35W bridge progress online.

Update: Hennepin County closes Lowry Avenue Bridge on April 25, 2008