Wisconsin Towns and Places

Eau Claire - “The City of Bridges”

Eau Claire’s city name translates to “Clear Water.” It is also known as “The City of Bridges.” The Chippewa and Eau Claire Rivers join in the heart of downtown at a place referred to as “The Confluence.”

The city is a university town, hosting the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire (UW-EC), a thriving university among the best Midwest universities.

The website Visit Eau Claire says the city, seventy thousand strong, “could probably lay claim to being ‘The Indie Capital of the Midwest,’ meaning its people see themselves as independent.

The Pablo Center at the Confluence brings performing, literary and visual arts to the community. It is a first-class venue, able to host multiple performances at once.

The city boasts of its partnership with the arts. Eau Claire Sculpture Tour website says the city has “The #1 Largest Sculpture Tour in The Nation!” This is a tour worth taking. This one is titled “Salmon Runner” by Heather Wall, which I have named “The Salmon Hunter.” Here are a few more.

Maestro! by Lee Leuning & Sherri Treeby

Paper Boy by Lee Leuning & Sherri Treeby

Recycled Thunder by Vic Rouleau

The city has been growing downtown.  Apartments are going up everywhere. The city has a new children’s Museum and an impressive and newly renovated library. It will also get a new field house and event center in 2024. Construction has begun.

As mentioned earlier, Eau Claire is known as “The City of Bridges.” It has multiple bridges required to get from one side of the city to the other. This one is a walkway for pedestrians. It crosses the Eau Claire River just before that river meets the Chippewa River.

This is another pedestrian bridge crossing the Chippewa River just before it meets the Eau Claire River.

This is a favorite city store known as “the Local Store.” It is a full-on retail store featuring apparel, books, music, art prints, glassware, gifts, and more – produced by, for, and about people in this community.

The Local Store was opened by Volume One magazine. It is a culture and entertainment publication based in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  Its national headquarters is at The Local Store.

This is the Royal Credit Union (RCU) Corporate center. It is located just across from Phoenix Park in downtown Eau Claire, at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers. The RCU corporate center is the hub of RCU’s activities. Like everything else in Eau Claire, RCU is also growing, now encompassing a large part of West Central Wisconsin, Eastern Minnesota, and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metro in Minnesota. With more than 200,000 Members.

This is a shot of Cascade Tissue Group - Wisconsin, a Cascades Holding US Inc division. It manufactures sustainable packaging, hygiene, and recovery solutions. There is a dam to the lower right of this photo, just out of view.

It is the Dells Dam, a concrete gravity dam on the Chippewa River. Xcel Energy operates a hydroelectric station here.

If you go to the university in Eau Claire, you know this area well, historic Water Street. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 and is located directly across from the main campus of the UW-EC. Buildings in the district were constructed from 1882 to 1885. Records remain of Water Street buildings dating back as far as 1857. It’s a neat place to visit.

The Pablo Group of Eau Claire rehabilitated a historic site known as Salisbury Flats. The five residential units that line Grand Avenue are being sold as condominiums.

The Wisconsin Historical Society tells us,

“The Salsbury Row House is a two-story, wood frame, five-unit row house across the street from the Eau Claire County Courthouse. Situated prominently on a corner lot, this multi-unit building is one of the most distinctive properties in a neighborhood, consisting of a mix of large homes, churches, and small commercial structures built in the late 19th and early 20th century. “

The Pablo Group also restored two standalone “twins’”around the corner on Oxford Avenue. They, too, are being sold as condominiums.

You are looking down Barstow Street, the main drag in Eau Claire.

Last but not least, this is the historic High Bridge. This is an example of the high-value Eau Claire places on its bridges.  I took this and the next photo in January 2007. It looked like it was not in use at the time.

It is Eau Claire's oldest railroad bridge, constructed in 1881.  It continued operating until the 1990s. Volume One reported it was abandoned in 1992.

However, the city upgraded it for $1.15 million and opened it as a pedestrian bridge in 2015. 

Volume One reported the significance of the bridge,

“The bridge is considered to be of national importance – its main truss spans are believed to be the only remaining example of quintuple intersection lattice deck trusses in the country.”

It was closed in June 2021 when cracks were found in a bridge deck and one of the limestone piers. The city and the state invested about $3.4 million to repair it. The bridge reopened to pedestrian traffic in March 2022. The repairs were significant.

WEAU quoted Leah Ness, Interim City Engineer, saying,

“There was a lot of coordination between the Department of Natural Resources and our group, and the contractor, and how we were going to access the piers. You have to monitor the river levels to make sure you have access.”

WEAU further said,

“while work on the bridge was difficult and intensive, the repairs on the bridge should be there to last for decades. The bridge should be cleared for use for the next 30 to 50 years.”

That’s the name of that tune! Eau Claire, indeed is the City of Bridges.