Honeymoon Bridge No More

Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls

What you see in the background is the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls. It’s an international crossing between Canada and the U.S. But it wasn’t the first bridge at this location.

Back in 1898, the first International Bridge opened at this location, and it was called the Honeymoon Bridge, or it’s official name, The Upper Steel Arch Bridge. It was mainly because of this bridge that the Maid of the Mist boat became a tour boat attraction at Niagara Falls.

Previous to 1898, the Maid boat was used to ferry people between the two Niagara Falls cities. But once the upper steel arch bridge opened, there was no need for the boat which wasn’t year ’round anyway. So it changed to the Maid of the Mist tour boat and began a long career taking tourists to the bottom of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls.

The bridge lasted 40 years, from 1898 to 1938, and then it collapsed into the Niagara River where it still lies today. A combination of very cold weather and a warm wind sent vast amounts of ice from Lake Erie floating upper Niagara River and plunging over the American and Canadian Falls forming a massive ice jam in the gorge below the Falls. Remember, this was 1938, years before there was any “flow control” at the Falls, and about 20 years before the rock slide at the American Falls.

This build up of ice on Tuesday, January 25, 1938 shattered the docks of the Maid of the Mist and crumpled the Maid of the Mist caretaker’s home. The ice began to accumulate against the lower girders of the Honeymoon Bridge and it was feared the Honeymoon Bridge could not withstand the ice build up. All traffic was stopped on the bridge at approximately 9:15 a.m. on January 26.

At 4:10 p.m. on Thursday, January 27, a crushing force of massive ice ended the bridge’s 40 years of life high above the waters. All that remained was a steely “W”, the shape created when it crashed onto the ice bridge below. There were no injuries in the crash that spelled the end of the The Upper Steel Arch Bridge. When the mild weather arrived and melted the ice in the gorge, this mighty structure sank to the bottom of Niagara.

On 1941, the new Rainbow Bridge was built just feet north of the old Honeymoon Bridge. To ensure its safety, the girders were situated much higher above the level of the Niagara River. The cost to build it, $4 million dollars. Wonder what it would cost today?



The Upper Steel Arch Bridge or as it was known, The Honeymoon Bridge

(from the St. Marys Museum photo collection)


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