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Kate Shelley High Bridge, Boone

#440 of 689 in Things to do in Iowa
Bridge · Landmark
The Kate Shelley High Bridge, officially called the Boone Viaduct when it was completed in 1901, was one of the highest and longest double-track railroad bridges in the United States. It is located approximately west of Boone, Iowa.
It was nicknamed for the Iowa railroad heroine, Kate Shelley, also spelled Shelly. In 1881, when she was 17 years old, Kate Shelley risked her life to warn a passenger train by crossing the Des Moines River Bridge near Moingona at night, during a thunderstorm. Her goal was to warn the passenger train that the next bridge was out. That train had already been stopped. She then led rescuers to two men still in the swollen, flooded Honey Creek near her house, and they were saved. Her bravery was heralded in many newspapers.
The bridge was designed by George S. Morison for the Chicago & North Western Railway and was constructed from 1899 to 1901. It stands above the Des Moines River and is long. The bridge was never officially renamed for Kate Shelley, but there were many commemorations there to honor her as if it carried that name. Gradually it became better known as the Kate Shelley High Bridge, or just the Kate Shelley Bridge, and the popularity of the Boone Viaduct name faded.
By the mid-1950s, traffic on the bridge was limited to one train at a time. In 1986, some of the bridge towers were damaged in a wind storm. Union Pacific Railroad is the current owner of the bridge, and starting in 2001, they undertook an inspection and repair program; this resulted in both tracks being opened again, but with a 25mph slow order.
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Kate Shelley High Bridge reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.0
22 reviews
  • This place is not exactly easy to find. It was not recognized by our Apple maps. However, once we got close, there were signs directing you to the right place. Be prepared to drive on bumpy...  more »
  • Unique rail bridge spanning the Des Moines river. Just a few miles off of Hwy 30, you drive along a gravel road to the base of the bridge where you can park on the side of the road to take pictures. Well worth seeing. I did notice an echo affect on the newer bridge right next to it, so shout down the bridge columns to see if it works for you.
  • Some of the most beautiful scenery you will ever see!

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