Mountain & Trail News

    Paul Bunyan State Trail Bridge in Bemidji, Minnesota to be Dedicated Sept. 26

    The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Northwest Region Parks and Trails Division, will host a dedication ceremony for the completed Paul Bunyan State Trail bridge on Sept. 26 from 1 to 1:30 p.m. The ceremony will take place at the west end of the new bridge by Clausen Avenue.

    The ceremony will include a ribbon-cutting event with remarks from Dave Larson, Bemidji mayor; Minnesota Sen. John Carlson; State Rep. John Persell; Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR Parks and Trails Division; John Chattin, Bemidji city manager; and Jerry Downs, trail advocate.

    The $1.75 million bridge project, funded by the 2011 Legislature through bonding, was a collaborative effort among the city of Bemidji, the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) and Otter Tail Power Company.

    “We’re excited for what this project means to the local community and trail users throughout the state,” Nelson said.

    The bridge and trail now create a continuous connection between the city of Bemidji trails along Lake Bemidji to downtown, and to the Paul Bunyan State Trail on the south side of Lake Bemidji. The project will provide a safe trail crossing at a very busy city intersection – Highway 197 and First Street. It nearly completes the Paul Bunyan State Trail development on the northern end of the trail, except for a one-half-mile segment along Clausen Avenue, which may be completed in 2013. The only other remaining undeveloped section of the Paul Bunyan State Trail is between Crow Wing State Park and Brainerd/Baxter, which will be completed in 2013.

    “This project is a small but important part of a huge trail system,” said Tony Walzer, acquisition and development specialist for the Northwest Region of Parks and Trails Division. “It is nearly the last of many that have occurred over the past 20 years along the entire length of the trail, which the Legislature authorized in 1988.”

    Locally, the project enhances the trail system in Bemidji and provides better connectivity for the area trail users. Regionally, it appeals to tourists who are looking for the opportunity to take advantage of this extensive trail system.

    Construction consisted of a painted, steel truss bridge over Highway 197 (Bemidji Avenue and Paul Bunyan Drive), and 2,740 feet of trail with bituminous surfacing for bicycle, pedestrian and snowmobile use. The bridge is in three sections with a 200-foot center span over the traffic lanes and 125- and 100-foot approach spans. It has a 12-foot walkway with a concrete deck, handrails, decorative abutments and piers with architectural details to match the bridge over the Mississippi River. It boasts a 54-square foot trail logo/sign of Paul Bunyan at the bridge midpoint on both sides.

    When complete, the trail will be approximately 120 miles long and extend from Crow Wing State Park (south of Brainerd/Baxter) to Lake Bemidji State Park (north of Bemidji).

    Presently at about 112 paved miles from Brainerd to Bemidji, the Paul Bunyan State trail is the longest continuously paved trail in the Minnesota state trail system, and one of the longest in the United States. In 2011, the Rail-to-Trails Conservancy bolstered the trail’s growing national reputation by naming it to the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame. More information is available at


    At the intersection of Highway 197 (Bemidji Avenue) and First street, turn west on Shevlin and follow the flags. Parking is behind the old MnDOT office site on Clausen Avenue, west of the railroad tracks. Park at the end of the gravel road and walk trail to west end of bridge.

    For more information about the trail, including a map and virtual tour, visit Trail information is also available from the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

    Logo courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

    Planning your next Camping trip? Start your search at

    Share This Article