Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel

Tom and I headed to the Fairview Lift Bridge and Cartwright Tunnel for a walk on a beautiful day.  After all the heavy history of Bighorn Canyon and Little Bighorn Battlefield, Tom and I needed something a little lighter.

Fairview Lift Bridge

The Fairview Lift Bridge was completed in 1913. It is one of two almost identical bridges the Montana Eastern Railway built within ten miles of each other which cross different rivers in different states.  The Fairview Bridge crosses the Yellowstone River in North Dakota and its twin, the Snowden Bridge, crosses the Missouri River in Montana.  The bridges were designed as lift bridges to allow river traffic to pass underneath.  But neither bridge was ever lifted after the initial trial run.  

The bridges are owned by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company but neither has been used since the 1980’s.  Just east of the Fairview bridge is the timber-lined Cartwright tunnel, which is the only railroad tunnel in North Dakota.  

The lift bridge and tunnel are the only tourist attraction in tiny Fairview.  Tom and I are always surprised at how many people visit them, so we needed to check them out.  We parked in the small park at the base of the bridge and then walked over the bridge and into the tunnel.

Fairview Lift Bridge
Yellowstone River
Tom walking inside the tunnel
End of the tunnel

The views from the bridge are awesome and the tunnel is especially impressive. The massive timbers look like they could hold up the tunnel forever.  In addition to being the only railroad tunnel in North Dakota, it also curves, so you can’t see the end of it until you get around the curve.  This makes it seem longer and darker than it really is.

On the day we went, there was another couple coming out of the tunnel as we headed in.  As we were leaving, two RVs pulled in with two couples eager to see the bridge and tunnel.  A series of waysides explains the history of the bridge and tunnel before you start over them.

Tom and I enjoyed our walk over the bridge and into the tunnel.  It was a beautiful day, an interesting piece of history, and a lovely walk.