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Now you see it, now you don't: Historic bridge supports disappears

This aerial view from 1946 shows old Trunk Highway 55, which replaced the original bridge from Dunlap Island. The original bridge was destroyed after Trunk Highway 55 was built in the 1930s but the old pier stood for generations of teenagers to dive from. Submitted photo1 / 3
Current view overlooking the Highway 33 bridge to Sunnyside. The old bridge remains can be seen on the far right next to the Spafford Park boat launch. The other end of the old bridge is in front of the bench on the right of the photo. The old pier was in the middle of the river between the ends of the bridge. Jamie Lund/Pine Journal2 / 3
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Steve Schmidt was checking to see if the ice was off the St. Louis River yet April 24 when he realized something was amiss. Then he noticed the pier — or old bridge support — standing in the middle of the river was gone.

What many called a large rock or diving block between Dunlap Island and Sunnyside has been a part of the landscape for decades. Teenagers have swam out to the rectangular formation jutting out of the river and dove off for many generations.

"Wow, I used to swim out there to jump off of that or the bridge in the early '90s," said David Groth, who grew up in Cloquet and now lives in Maryland.

There is not an official record of when the old concrete pier that rose roughly 6 feet above the river actually went under in the past month.

According to Bert and Judy Whittington, a customer who came into the Northeastern Bar the afternoon of April 23 said he witnessed the pier's disappearance.

The customer was looking over the river near the boat launch when he said he heard a splash and watched the huge old bridge support slide slowly underneath the current.

However, there is a Facebook post from Zach Johnson from 6:50 a.m. April 23 showing the river minus the old pier. It says that the rumors are true and the swimming block is gone.

According to retired City Engineer Jim Prusak, the old concrete abutments for the old bridge are still visible on either side of the familiar pier.

"There is one next to the Spafford Park boat landing and one below the Chamber by the walking trail," Prusak said. "There was a center concrete pier out in the middle of the river between these two abutments. Over the years, the river current eroded and undermined the concrete pier and that is why it ultimately fell over."

If you have information about when the old pier sank or cool photos to share, contact the Pine Journal at news@pinejournal.com or 218-879-1950. Look for one witness's story in next week's Pine Journal!

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