Fall in Love with Fall at These 6 Downtown DSM Bridges
Fall in love with fall by exploring history among Downtown Des Moines’ bridges with a self-guided tour, plus art, architecture, drama, intrigue — it’s all here and nestled beneath beautiful fall foliage and the Downtown DSM skyline!
Fall Things to Do: Downtown Des Moines Bridge History Tour
Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge
Take a Look: Linking the east and west of Downtown Des Moines,this prominent pedestrian bridge sits over the Des Moines River and is visible from many points along the Principal Riverwalk and Interstate 235. During the daytime, the bridge’s architecture commands attention with the Downtown Des Moines skyline and nearby Lauridsen Skatepark as a backdrop. After dusk, the bridge lights up beautifully, reflecting off of the rushing water below. The tree-lined riverfront makes this a great destination year-round, in particular during the autumn as the leaves change from green to red, orange and yellow hues.
Deeper Dive: The bridge is the visible representation of the Women of Achievement Award, which recognizes the significant advancements of historical (deceased) women from around the state.
Location: Off Robert D. Ray Drive, between E Center Street and Des Moines Street
Take a Look: Crossing the Raccoon River from Gray’s Station into Gray’s Lake Park makes for a lovely fall walk, thanks to the scenic views of the Coleman Bridge. The 425-foot bridge is surrounded by nature yet sits adjacent to Downtown Des Moines and is vibrantly lit at night with changing LED lights often themed to the current season or major events happening in the city.
Deeper Dive: The bridge is named after Des Moines City Councilman Chris Coleman and his wife, Marcie. Coleman served at-large on the City Council for 22 years and made many significant contributions to DSM — including his instrumental role in resurrecting the original flag of Des Moines which features the iconic bridges of Downtown Des Moines.
Location: Just outside of Gray’s Lake Park, off John R. Grubb Lane
Gray’s Lake Bridge
Take a Look: The quarter-mile-long bridge allows walkers, runners and bikers to journey across Gray’s Lake year-round, and is notably beautiful during the fall in Downtown Des Moines. The bridge is surrounded by water and trees, with views of the Downtown skyline peeking through the foliage. At night, multicolored dichroic glass combines with backlighting to create colorful, angular shapes spanning the walkway and sparkling off the lake water beneath.
Deeper Dive: The lake itself was a former gravel and sand excavation site. In 1998, David and Elizabeth Kruidenier outlined a vision and donated $1.5 million to create the trail around Gray’s Lake. Professor Cal Lewis, founding principal of Herb Lewis Kruse Blunck Architecture, created the bridge’s design and was assisted by then-intern Erin Olson-Douglas.
Location: Off Fleur Drive along John R. Grubb Ln.
Water Works Park Bridge
Take a Look: The truss-style bridge over the Raccoon River within Water Works Park gives off rural vibes, although located just a short car ride or bike ride from the heart of Downtown Des Moines. The bridge’s wooden planks and rustic metal architecture along with nearby mature trees and falling autumn leaves make this a picturesque destination for fall outdoor exploration.
Deeper Drive: The bridge, originally built in 1914 by Iowa Bridge Co., was later converted for trail use in 1999 and is expected to be replaced although plans are still pending.
Location: Along the Bill Riley Trail, just off Gray’s Lake Road
Take a Look: A favorite destination for photoshoots is the Red Bridge, a longtime staple sight that sits across the Des Moines River in Downtown Des Moines and along the Principal Riverwalk. Its bright red color and proximity to other Downtown Des Moines’ architecturally and artistically significant venues makes this a picture-perfect spot for an autumn visit.
Deeper Dive: The bridge was originally built in 1891 as a railroad truss and has experienced many changes to its architecture, function and elevation over the years. Portions of the old abutments and other historical elements of the bridge from the past are still visible today.
Location: Nearby Court Avenue, between Water Street and E. First Street
Jackson Avenue Bridge
Take a Look: Often called the Green Bridge, this iconic thoroughfare over the Raccoon River, just outside of Principal Park and near Mullets, was recently saved, restored and reopened as a pedestrian bridge. It’s location along the Meredith Trail creates an enjThe bridge was built in 1898 for wagons and horses as a pine-connected Pratt through-truss and is only one of three pinned trusses located in an urban setting in Iowa. The bridge sits at an odd angle in proximity to the river, as the river channel was moved in 1903 to lessen flood concerns. The history of how the bridge came to be located at Jackson Street is full of drama and intrigue — read more.
Location: Along the Meredith Trail, nearby SW Second Street or SW Fifth Street
Plan Your Visit to Downtown Des Moines
Plan your visit to Downtown Des Moines this fall with these tips for parking and navigation, discover additional outdoor recreation and trails and grab food in Downtown Des Moines from one of several restaurants nearby these iconic and historic Downtown Des Moines bridges.
You can even expand your self-guided tour to include additional Downtown Des Moines things to do, like visiting murals and sculptures with stops for a quick pic at various photo-worthy locations of the Downtown skyline, as well!