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Top 10 Famous Bridges in Chicago

The incredible metropolitan area of Chicago is situated in the northeastern part of Illinois and on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan.

The Chicago River flows through the heart of the city and its banks provide some of the most amazing views of the famous skyscrapers and landmarks in Chicago.

Another river called the Calumet River flows through the city’s South Side. This is the heavily industrialized part of this huge urban jungle.

Although there are two rivers, not every bridge in Chicago crosses one of these which is quite remarkable.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most famous bridges in Chicago!

1. DuSable Bridge

The DuSable Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges in Chicago and that’s because it’s located right near where the city was founded. It crosses the Chicago River in the heart of the city and is located right near where Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, the founder of Chicago, built his house in the 1780s.

It’s one of several historic bridges in Chicago in this area and was completed between 1918 and 1920. It provides access for both vehicles and pedestrians on two levels. One of the bridge tender houses features the McCormick Bridgehouse & Chicago River Museum which exhibits items related to the history of the Chicago River.

Dusable bridge chicago
DuSable Bridge / Wiki Commons

2. Chicago Skyway

The Chicago Skyway is an elevated bridge that forms an integral part of Interstate 90 (I-90) in Illinois. It runs for nearly 8 miles (13 kilometers) and took nearly 3 years to build in the 1950s. This tollway was first opened for traffic in the year 1958.

The bridge crosses the Calumet River on the South Side of the city and this particular section has a length of 2,620 feet (800 meters). The bridge cost $101 million to build in the 1950s which is the equivalent of well over $700 million now. It remains the only monumental bridge in Chicago until today.

Chicago Skyway famous bridges in Chicago
Chicago Skyway / David Wilson / Wiki Commons

3. Nichols Bridgeway

Nichols Bridgeway is arguably one of the most remarkable pedestrian bridges in the United States. It starts on the Great Lawn of Millennium Park, the stunning green area in downtown Chicago, and leads all the way up to the third floor of the new modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The bridge has a length of 620 feet (189 meters) and was constructed between 2007 and 2009. This white steel bridge was designed by renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano. He is famously known for projects such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris and The Shard in London, to name just a few.

Nichols Bridgeway
Nichols Bridgeway / Vincent Desjardins / Wiki Commons

4. State Street Bridge

The State Street Bridge is also known as the “Bataan-Corregidor Memorial Bridge” and is another historic bridge in the heart of downtown Chicago. It carries State Street across the Chicago River, not too far west of the DuSable Bridge near Pioneer Court.

The construction of the bridge started in 1939 but it wasn’t completed until 1949 due to material shortages caused by World War II. Like most bridges in this area, it’s a bascule bridge that can be opened for boat traffic. The bridge is flanked by the famous Chicago River Walk.

State Street Bridge in Chicago
State Street Bridge / Bohao Zhao / Wiki Commons

5. BP Pedestrian Bridge

The BP Pedestrian Bridge is another pedestrian bridge that is located in Millennium Park. It’s situated on the opposite side of the stunning Jay Pritzker Pavilion, the amphitheater in downtown Chicago that can be used for concerts and other events.

This girder footbridge winds across Columbus Drive and connects Maggie Daley Park with Millennium Park, both smaller sections of the immense Grant Park. This bridge has a length of 935 feet (285 meters) and was completed in 2004. It was designed by Frank Gehry, known for the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Dancing House in Prague.

BP Pedestrian Brigde in Chicago
BP Pedestrian Bridge / Torsodog / Wiki Commons

6. Outer Drive Bridge

The Outer Drive Bridge is also known as the Link Bridge and is officially called the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial Bridge. As its name suggests, it’s the final bridge that crosses the Chicago River before it flows into Lake Michigan.

The bridge was constructed between 1929 and 1937 and has a total length of 356 feet (109 meters). It’s a double-deck bascule bridge that carries two lanes of Lake Shore Drive across the Chicago River. The North and South Pier along with the Chicago River Locks are located just nearby.

Outer Drive Bridge
Outer Drive Bridge / Nicholas Hartmann / Wiki Commons

7. St. Charles Air Line Bridge

The St. Charles Air Line Bridge is another remarkable bascule bridge that spans the Chicago River. It’s located just south of downtown Chicago and was constructed in 1919 by the American Bridge Company as an integral part of the St. Charles Air Line Railroad.

With a main span of 260 feet (79 meters), it held the record of being the longest bascule bridge in the world upon completion. It held this record until 1930 and was later shortened to 220 feet (67 meet) when the channel was straightened. It remains a remarkable landmark bridge in Chicago today.

St. Charles Air Line Bridge
St. Charles Air Line Bridge / J. Crocker / Wiki Commons

8. Kinzie Street Railroad Bridge

Kinzie Street Railroad Bridge is another historic bascule bridge that is located just west of downtown Chicago. It was completed in 1908 and held the record of being both the longest and heaviest single leaf bascule bridge in the world at the time, although it’s only 195.83 feet (59.69 meters) long.

The bridge that was completed in the early 20th century wasn’t the first bridge in this location. It was preceded by a pedestrian bridge that was the first bridge across the Chicago River and a Chicago’s first railroad bridge. A third bridge featured the first steel span in the United States.

Kinzie Street Railroad Bridge
Kinzie Street Railroad Bridge / Jeremy A. / Wiki Commons

9. Wells Street Bridge

Wells Street Bridge is a historic bridge in downtown Chicago that provides one of the best views of the Merchandise Mart, the largest building in the world upon completion in 1930. It connects the Near North Side with the Chicago Loop in the heart of the city.

The original bridge was completed in 1922 but it has since been partially rebuilt between 2012 and 2013. It’s another double-decked bridge that carries three lanes of vehicle traffic on its lower deck and trains on its upper deck. Pedestrians can cross the bridge on the lower deck as well as there are sidewalks on both sides.

Wells Street Bridge
Wells Street Bridge / David Wilson / Wiki Commons

10. Canal Street Railroad Bridge

The Canal Street Railroad Bridge is also known as the Pennsylvania Railroad bridge. It’s a vertical-lift bridge that spans the southern part of the Chicago River and carries two railroad tracks across it. The two towers allow the tracks to be raised for boat traffic.

This bridge in Chicago was a nifty piece of engineering upon completion because it could raise the main span to a height of 111 feet (34 meters) in just 45 seconds. It’s the only vertical-lift bridge on the Chicago River and the main span weighs 1,500 tonnes, which made it the heaviest in the world upon completion. This amazing structure has been a Chicago Landmark since 2007.

Canal Street Railroad Bridge
Canal Street Railroad Bridge / J. Crocker / Wiki Commons