Chicago Bridge Lift Schedule
Not all of Chicago’s extensive architectural legacy is in its buildings. The city also boasts somewhere between 37 and 43 moving bridges, at least 20 of which are downtown. These are a remarkable example of urban engineering, but they spend most of their time in their lowered position and most of us residents don’t give a second look.
Bridge lifting season in Chicago is between the spring and fall. If you want to get a glimpse of these engineering marvels in action (or just want to know when to avoid the resultant traffic), you’ll have to know the specific schedule to get an idea of the most likely times to have a Chicago bridge-opening experience. How often do Chicago bridges open?
Fall bridge-lifting season begins on September 14th and lasts through mid-November. It occurs on most Wednesdays and Saturdays during this time beginning around 9 a.m. The 27 bridges from Lake Shore Drive to Ashland Avenue are opened one at a time. In spring, the same procession goes east from Ashland Avenue to Lake Shore Drive.
The bridge lift schedule can be seen here. The times shown on the calendar are the starting times for the Lake Shore Drive bridge. Lift times are subject to boat traffic. Each bridge lift takes eight to ten minutes.
The exact timing of the bridge lifts is very hard to predict because it all depends on boat traffic. Boat owners make arrangements in advance to move their boats on a scheduled day. However, it no boats make arrangements, no bridges will be lifted. For this reason, the lifts can occur at any time within the scheduled block, but may not occur at all.
Why do the Chicago bridges open in spring and fall?
Bridge lifting season in Chicago is in the spring and fall. In spring, it’s for boats heading out to Lake Michigan. In fall, it’s for those same boats coming back to go into storage for the winter months.
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Where can I view the bridge lifts?
In addition to viewing the Chicago bridge lifts from the street, reservations can be made to view the lifts from underneath through the McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum at Michigan Avenue on select days. There’s limited availability, so make sure to give them a call if you’re interested in this option.