In 1920, brothers Lew and Jesse Tisor were walking over the pedestrian bridge at Lovers Leap ravine. The two teenagers would have been used to the sway of the wooden walkway, but this time the planks gave out from under them. In a flash they were at the bottom, miraculously unscathed, still standing upright.
It may have been just a stroke of good luck, or maybe someone was watching over them. After all, the Swinging Bridge—also called Lovers Leap here in Columbus Junction—comes complete with a legend of lost love, and even the occasional haunting.
The bridge goes back long before the Tisor brothers made their crossing. The original one, made from salvaged barrel wood, dates from either 1880 or 1886 (accounts differ) and was built to provide a direct route from Fourth Street to Third without having to walk all the way around the 80-foot ravine.
That one lasted until 1902 when its haphazard construction was condemned by the city. In 1904, bridge number two went up, and it stayed up for sixteen years until it tumbled down under the Tisor brothers’ feet. Two years after that it was bridge number three, and with a few updates and overhauls over the decades, it’s been up ever since.
No one really knows how the ravine came to be known as Lovers Leap, but the most often told tale is of a love-sick maiden, her lover killed in battle, threw herself to the bottom to end her grief. Or maybe it was a case of unrequited love—that story has some traction too. It’s said that the maiden is buried at the bottom, and if you cross over at night you can hear her mournful cries. Maybe it was her watching over the Tisor boys back in 1920.
Know Before You Go
Columbus Junction is about 35 miles south of Iowa City, down Rt 218. Take a left onto Hwy 92 which turns into Oak Street when you get to town. Turn right onto Third Street (there's a bright blue sign pointing the way), and the bridge is on the right where the road bends.