The Grassy Point Bridge was authorized by the states of Wisconsin and Minnesota in 1887 to cross Saint Louis Bay at the shortest possible location. It was built by the Minneapolis and Duluth Railroad, which was later acquired by the Northern Pacific. The bridge allowed to move trains between their railroad lines on either side of the Twin Ports Harbor.
The east end of the bridge connects to the BNSF 28th Street Terminal, and a massive maze of rail yards and side tracks (now mostly gone). The current iron and steel bridge was built in 1912 to handle two parallel railroad tracks, but only one track is installed on the swing span. It is the only swing bridge still in use and one of two key railroad crossings that cross the border.
A strange and a quite eerie row of teddy bears, clowns dolls, peluches, and stuffed Disney characters hang along the timbers of the rotating truss bridge, nailed up by their ears and stuffed paws a few meters above the St. Louis River.
Some of them appear brand new, while others are matted, decomposing, faceless, bursting at their seams, or discolored from years in the sun. Spider webs have been spun and re-spun between their legs and seams, and moss has grown up over their glass eyes while, all that remains of some are just detached ears, arms, and heads.
Accessible only by water, this bizarre, unsettling collection was first created by Rick McDonald, who operated the bridge for many years from the now-deteriorating building that sits just above it.
It seems that he began purchasing secondhand stuffed animals, fastening them to the wooden beams that supported the bridge. Even the other operators were not certain why he began this odd collection, though it was assumed it was for the entertainment of himself and the boaters that passed by. Then some boaters put some up. In any case, since McDonald’s retirement and later his passing in 2006, boaters have continued to make their own additions to the eerie family, making it an ever-changing exhibition.
Who knows what stories they would have to tell, stories that make them all the more mysterious. In any case they’ll hung there, a few meters above the river, rotting and entertaining boaters until they’re finally swallowed up by the river.