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Approximately 23-miles of the High Trestle Trail were completed in the Fall of 2008. The last remaining segments include the Des Moines River Bridge and the trail segments that lead up to each end of the bridge were completed in April 2011.

arrow From the Spring 2011 issue of the American Trails Magazine

arrow See Iowa trails lead to High Trestle bridge


Artistic vision featured on Iowa's High Trestle Trail bridge

photo of bridge through steel frames

The changing geometry of the steel cribbing radiates around the visitor

VISITORS WILL DISCOVER a new view along the 25-mile High Trestle Trail with the completion of the High Trestle bridge north of Des Moines, Iowa. The half- mile-long bridge rises 13 stories above the Des Moines River valley between the towns of Madrid and Woodward, and links Ankeny, Sheldahl, and Slater as well.

Once a Union Pacific Railroad crossing of the Des Moines River, the bridge is now a unique element of the High Trestle Trail. At 130-feet tall, it is one of the tallest trail bridges in the nation. The structure also features artistic elements inspired by the area’s coal-mining history. With its 22 structural columns, sculptural forms, and patterns, this bridge is an art form in itself.

The monumental columns are illuminated from the bridge deck, creating a stunning visual. The geometry of the steel “cribbing,” reminiscent of a mine tunnel, changes around the viewer. The integration of artwork along the High Trestle Trail reflects the geological history of this area, with the design elements providing visual connection to the passage.


graphic of bridge railings


A modern bridge, the railroad structure was completed in 1973. The concrete piers replaced the original 1912 railroad trestle. The High Trestle Trail is built on the 1881 former railroad grade of the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul Railroad Company. Union Pacific Railroad sold the corridor to the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation in 2005.

The Foundation then transferred the corridor to nine public partners. Trail partners are grateful to more than 800 donors and to the 18 major public grants that have brought this $14.7 million project to life.

The “portals” or vertical elements that form a gateway to the Des Moines River Bridge are sculptural symbols that speak to this geology, the cutting and slicing of nature that forms this river valley. Seen from a distance, they become a destination “icon” that bracket the experience of crossing the river on this expansive trail bridge.

The integrated artistic concept emerged through a combination of research, public input, design development, and insight. The sculptural forms and patterns are thoughtful of the factors of time and scale, whether on foot or on bicycle. The bridge becomes a special experience and cultural landmark in and of itself. Upon selection for this project, one of the primary considerations for the incorporation of artwork in the design was the significance of the bridge over the Des Moines River. The steering committee recognized that the most unique part of the High Trestle Trail was the opportunity to cross the river over this bridge.

graphic of lights on bridge

Lights create a stunning effect on the bridge

The changing geometry of the steel cribbing radiates around you. The viewer moves along the path as though moving through history, through the tunnel of a mine.

Lighting is a critical element to the artwork on the bridge and along the trail. Blue LED fixtures highlight the inside face of each crib. The lighting creates a dynamic ambiance that will impact the site as it changes from day to night. A soft radiant glow will shape the bridge tunnel at night and mark the center of the span above the water, as seen from a distance. Safety lighting on the bridge parapet also adds to the pedestrian experience at night.


For more information:

Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation Address:
505 5th Avenue, Ste 444
Des Moines, Iowa 50309



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