Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Portage Lake Lift Bridge
The Portage Lake Lift Bridge connects the cities of Hancock and Houghton, Michigan by crossing over the Portage Waterway, an arm of Portage Lake which cuts across the Keweenaw Peninsula with a canal linking the final several miles to Lake Superior to the northwest. U.S. Highway 41 and Michigan State Highway 26 are both routed across the bridge.
The original bridge on this site was a wooden bridge built in 1875. This was replaced by a steel bridge built by the King Bridge Company in 1901. This bridge was damaged when a ship collided with it in 1905. Repairs were made to the bridge but were unable to fully restore it. In 1959, this bridge was replaced by the current bridge which was built by the American Bridge Company.
As its name states, the bridge is a lift bridge with the middle section capable of being lifted from its low point of four feet clearance over the water to a clearance of thirty two feet to allow boats to pass underneath. The Portage Lake Lift Bridge is the widest and heaviest double decked vertical lift bridge in the world. The lower deck of the bridge was originally open to rail traffic, but this level is now closed to trains and is used in the winter for snowmobile traffic.
Hancock and Houghton hold an annual celebration called Bridgefest to commemorate the opening of the bridge which united their two communities.
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