In the second half of the nineteenth century, the lumber industry transformed Stillwater into a bustling community. The Saint Croix River crossing was first served by a ferry then, by 1876, a pontoon bridge. However, by the early twentieth century, the bridge was becoming obsolete. The state highway departments built a new steel bridge in 1931 with a vertical-lift span to accommodate river traffic. The eye-catching structure quickly became a local icon.
In the decades after World War II, the bridge became a bottleneck as both vehicular traffic and recreational river use increased. Initial proposals to modify the structure led to plans to completely replace it. This was complicated both by the Saint Croix’s designation by Congress as a Wild and Scenic River and by the listing of the bridge in the National Register. Although a new crossing was eventually built, lawsuits and subsequent mediation and calls for further study slowed the project. The historic lift bridge, once threatened with demolition, has been saved and converted for pedestrian and bicycle use, part of a loop trail that also runs over the new bridge.