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Witness to sinking of bridge pier comes forward

Following the report of the old bridge support near Cloquet’s Spafford Park disappearing under the murky waters of the St. Louis River in last week’s Pine Journal, a witness to the sinking of what many refer to as a pier, or diving rock, called the newspaper.

Claude Woodward lives on Dunlap Island across Main Street from the Northeastern Saloon and Grill, in the same house where he grew up.

Woodward said he was coming home around 4 p.m. Sunday, April 22, when he saw the massive support going under.

“It went fast,” he said. “I saw the last part going down, then the bubbles. It was like the Titanic going down.”

Woodward said there was a couple sitting near that spot on the river at the time. He asked them if they’d seen the large concrete support go over, but they hadn’t.

Woodward is worried that boats may hit the submerged concrete block and said he hopes authorities will put a buoy or some kind of warning sign there.

“I used to swim off that all the time when I was growing up here,” he said, explaining that his parents owned Woody’s Bar from the early 1950s until 1975. He has lived on the island again since 1987.

Northeastern owner Bert Whittington said he had photos of the North Channel bridge, which replaced the older bridge in 1932 or 1933, but no photos of the bridge that the support actually belonged to. The Trunk Highway 55 North Channel bridge stood from 1933 to around 1996.