Wisconsin River Leisure Bridge takes one other step ahead


A schematic of the proposed Wisconsin River Recreational Bridge connecting Dane and Sauk counties. Completion is scheduled for 2026.


A bridge linking trails across the Wisconsin River and connecting Dane and Sauk Counties is one step closer to realization thanks to $2 million in federal funding.

U.S. Representative Mark Pocan (WI-02), a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, recently celebrated the passage of the Omnibus Appropriation legislation for Fiscal Year 2023 (FY23). Part of that package includes $2 million for the Wisconsin River Recreational Bridge, a joint Dane and Sauk Counties project that will connect cyclists and pedestrians to the Walking Iron Trail in Dane County and the Great Sauk State Trail in Sauk County.

“Today is a great day for Wisconsin,” Congressman Pocan said in a released statement. “I look forward to seeing the impact on this project in the years to come.”

The bridge has been discussed for a long time. In 2019, the counties announced plans to study the feasibility of a bridge across the Wisconsin River. The bridge, 500 feet long, would stand on the site of Sauk City’s 100-year-old railroad bridge. This bridge was demolished in 2018. It has been classified as a security risk.

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Both counties have already committed $2 million in investments to the project. The federal dollars add another $2 million. The bridge is estimated to cost about $10 million. The counties will work with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to obtain additional grants to cover the balance.

Wisconsin River Recreational Bridge Designs

The Wisconsin River Recreational Bridge would help connect Dane County’s Walking Iron Trail to Sauk County’s Great Sauk State Trail.


“Bringing our two counties together opens up unlimited opportunities for outdoor tourism and creates a true regional recreation destination,” noted Dane County Executive Joe Parisi. “These are the types of projects that bring communities together and spur the development of new local small businesses.”

Sauk County Chief Executive Tim McCumber agrees, saying that a 2020 Sauk County Economic Impact Study showed that the trail link would bring millions of dollars to the area.

“We want Sauk County to be a place where people can live, work and play,” he said. “This path and this bridge will play a major role in our future development.”

Dane County’s Walking Iron County Park and Wildlife Refuge is west of the village of Mazomanie. Hiking trails meander through restored prairies and forested areas.

Sauk County approves Great Sauk State Trail contracts

Established in 2017, the Great Sauk State Trail is a multi-purpose recreational trail that parallels the Wisconsin River through the communities of Sauk Prairie and Prairie du Sac and extends into the Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area.

Local outdoor enthusiasts are pleased with the steps the government is taking to make the bridge a reality. Jonathan Cody is President of the Friends of the Great Sauk State Trail.

“This allocation will bring us one step closer to a world-class recreational trail with regional connectivity,” he said. “This is fantastic news.”

The bridge, Cody believes, will connect outdoor recreation opportunities on the Lower Wisconsin Riverway, Sauk Prairie State Recreation Area and Devil’s Lake State Park near Baraboo.

Mural dedicated to Great Sauk State Trail

Gateway to the Driftless, a Dane County nonprofit, is equally enthusiastic. Peter Antonie, the organization’s Chief Executive, said: “We are delighted that MP Pocan, on behalf of our region, understands the importance of this bridge to the economic impact on communities along the planned multi-purpose pathway corridor.”

The bridge is scheduled to be completed in 2026.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” McCumber said.