Old Alexandra Bridge
Salmon Sculpture on the Current Alexandra Bridge

There are so many things to explore in British Columbia, and many sites are not that far off the main highways. For example there is an old bridge hidden in the Fraser Canyon just north of the new Alexandra Bridge. This structure is barely visible from the new bridge itself so I imagine that most travelers don’t even know it exists.  Probably just as well since being ignored in this day and age means not being covered in graffiti and garbage.

Old Alexandra Bridge
Looking at the Old Alexandra Bridge from the Current One

The “old” Alexandra Bridge is on the original Cariboo Trail and was built on the site of the first bridge built in 1861. The first bridge was built by Joseph Trutch who named it after the Princess of Wales and was a toll bridge.  The charge was $7.40 a ton and in 1861 that was a substantial amount of money. 

Old Alexandra Bridge
Supporting Column
Old Alexandra Bridge
Trail on Old Highway

The relic of the second bridge is now part of a Provincial Park rest stop with the old 1920’s highway part of the trail down to the bridge.

I read that the original bridge was dismantled in 1912 – but the replacement wasn’t built until 1926. I had to wonder why. Apparently the Cariboo Road had been abandoned with the construction of the CPR in the 1880’s but when personal vehicles became more popular after the First World War the province starting to invest in new roads, including re-opening one through the Fraser Canyon.

I found this to be a great stop on the 8 hour drive between Vancouver and Quesnel at the end of July. Not sure if I’d like to make the walk from the parking lot to the bridge on a typically hot August day with temperatures soaring into the 40’s. And the park is not open in the winter – too dangerous to have traffic trying to get on and off the highway at this point on icy roads.

Old Alexandra Bridge
Looking from the North Access
Old Alexandra Bridge
Detail of the Bridge Deck – Rivets and Steel
Old Alexandra Bridge
Engineered Art

I was fascinated by the bridge deck itself but trying to find more about the history of this design was a bit of a challenge.  They are called riveted heavy duty steel bridge decks and were one of the first grating types developed in the early 1900’s. There are still quite a few riveted decks that stayed in service for decades, including: Riveted Bridge Gratings

  • The Veterans Memorial Bridge in Bay City Michigan which carries the four lane MI highway 25 over the Saginaw River originally constructed in 1957. the bridge included a new 5” Deep Heavy Duty Riveted Bridge Deck. 
  • The Robert Moses Causeway Southbound Bridge at Captree State Park was built in 1951, and in 2007 the original riveted bridge deck was still in service.
  • The LaSalle St Bridge in Chicago, Illinois with Riveted Bridge Deck installed in 1971 is still in good condition after over 37 years in service. 
  • The Robert Moses Parkway Bridge in Long Island, New York with riveted steel deck installed in 1951 was still in service after 56 years. 

I wonder how they would stand up to the sand and salt used on roads in the winter?

Old Alexandra Bridge
South Approach
Old Alexandra Bridge
Cables Anchored

Back to the Fraser River and the old Alexandra Bridge. The road goes nowhere from the south exit of the bridge, just a faint trail can be seen fading into the trees. The bridge is used by local fishermen since it is a traditional fishing place giving them a good spot to hook Chum, Pink, Sockeye and Coho salmon on their way upstream to spawn.

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