Iowa’s Art Bridge on the High Trestle Trail


Iowa Miners And The High Trestle Trail?

It’s no surprise that Iowa has farmers’ daughters.  But coal miners’ daughters?  You thought they were in Kentucky, right?  Well, yes.  But also in Iowa.  Surprised?  I was.   I’ve lived on the west coast of Iowa my entire life and I had no idea central Iowa once had a robust coal mining industry.

The industrious immigrants to this area were farmers in the summer and coal miners in the winter.  Not only did they provide heat for their families, but fuel to the trains that were  beginning to criss-cross the amber fields of grain.

Jump ahead a few decades and the once busy train tracks have been replaced with another type of traffic – the two-legged and two-wheeled type — pedestrian and pedal.  Considered a rail trail because it is built on land previously used by the railroad, the 25 mile long High Trestle Trail is a paved connector from Ankeny to Woodward, Iowa.  The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation helped purchase the land, which is in the four Iowa counties of Boone, Dallas, Polk, and Story, from the Union Pacific Railroad.

High Trestle Trail — An Iowa Trail — Night and Day

The High Trestle Trail Bridge is one that should be experienced both in the daylight and at night.  During the day, the paved trail is a pleasant, tree-lined walk.  Sharing the trail with bicycles requires a little communication, but everyone we encountered was friendly and having fun.  The trail is unlit so bring a flashlight with you after dark – not only to see with, but so you can be seen by the other walkers and cyclists.

The gem of the trail, located between Woodward and Madrid, Iowa, is the 13-story high, half-mile long “art bridge.”  The High Trestle Trail bridge is built on the original railroad trestle piers and crosses the Des Moines River.  Imagined and designed by renowned Des Moines, Iowa, artist David B. Dahlquist and RDG Dahlquist Art Studio,  the goal of creating a “destination for experiencing the art, the view, and the natural environment”1 has been accomplished ten-fold.

High Trestle Trail Bridge — An Iowa Gem

Huge monoliths arise at either end of the High Trestle Trail Bridge, each with “veins” of dark, formed ceramic tiles representing the coal found in the area.   These are the start of the art!  Strategically located across the half-mile bridge, square steel frames are angled over the bridge itself.  As you stand on the bridge and look forward, it appears as though the frames are connected to one another.  The illusion is intended to represent descending into a mine shaft.  And it works!

An amazing work of art seen during the day, experiencing it at night – with the steel sections over the Des Moines River lit up in blue LED lights – is breathtaking.  If you really want to experience art and be a part of it, travel to the High Trestle Trail Bridge after dark.  If you don’t really care about art, but you want to experience something really cool, then travel to the High Trestle Trail Bridge after dark.  Discover the scenic side of life.  It is definitely worth the trip!  Ydstoti!

1RDG Planning and Design:  Website http://rdgusa.com/high_trestle_trail/latest_news/des.html

High Trestle Trail Bridge