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History of Bridges Spanning the Milk River

Heritage of the High Country
A History of Del Bonita and Surrounding Districts,
Pages 67 - 69

In early days the settlers had to ford the Milk River in order to go to Cardston, Magrath, or Milk River. In some areas school children had to cross the river morning and night. Over the years the Bridge branch of the Alberta Department of Transportation has improved these conditions through construction of bridges across the Milk River. At present five bridges span the Milk River to enable traffic to move in and out of the area encircled by the North Fork.

Whiskey Gap Bridge Located at N.E. 11-1-12-4

To the west a bridge was built across the Milk River on the NE- I I- 1-23-4. On September 20, 1917 a petition for a bridge on the main road from Cardston and Woolford through Whiskey Gap, signed by ten persons, was sent to the Department of Transportation by A. A. Roney Of Whiskey Gap. This location was called Peters' Crossing.

In August 1918 two twenty-four foot timber pile spans were constructed across the Milk River. During January 1923 one forty foot truss was constructed two hundred yards up stream from the existing bridge. This steel, span fabricated by the Dominion Bridge Co., cost $1,135.00.

In August 1962 a sixty foot steel girder detour span was constructed three hundred feet up stream. The existing steel truss was dismantled and hauled to the Fort Macleod yard. A petition signed by thirty ratepayers of Cardston M.D. 6 requested that the forty foot span be relocated in N. W. -28-1-22-4.

In 1963 three Pre-stressed girder spans were constructed on a concrete subtructure by Bridge Foreman L. Nash on a stream diversion about a hundred feet north of the old bridge site.

Bridge Located W.N.W. 29-1-22-4 Near Frank Hoyt's Place

For many years people living in this area north of the Milk River either crossed on a home made suspension bridge, or drove around by Whiskey Gap to the west or to highway 62 on the east. Children attending the Del Bonita school had to cross the river twice a day on the cable bridge. At one time there was a device which was pulled across the cable by a system of pulleys.

During the period from 1967 to 1975 requests from Mrs. Reece Leishman and Mr. Frank Hoyt asking for a bridge were received by the Department of Transportation. In 1975 a bridge site was surveyed and in August 1975 the bridge was designed. In February 1976 a steel span one hundred and thirty five feet in length, salvaged bridge was constructed on treated timber abutments. The completion of this bridge was much appreciated by people on both sides of the river. In 1976 the bridge was painted. The future completion of the road from this bridge to Cardston will shorten the miles required to travel to points west.

Bridge located S.W. 1-2-22-4 First Bridge Over Milk River at Taylor's Place

On September 6, 1913 a letter was received from the District Surveyor and Engineer, R. J. Gordon stating that he and Mr. Martin Woolf, M.P. had selected a bridge site. This was good news to the homesteaders but according to the Lethbridge Herald some felt that a bridge would better meet the needs of the area if it could be located further east.

In 1915 an eighty foot span from the Dominion Bridge Co. was constructed on timber pile abutments, to cross the river on the S.W.-I-2-22-4. The completion of this bridge marked an epoch in the lives of the homesteaders of the lease country.

In 1924 the bridge was painted.

In October 1936 a petition with thirty-two names objecting to removal of the bridge was received by the Department of Transportation. In November 1938 the steel was dismantled and stored at Henry's farm N.W.-24-1-22-4. Then all traffic crossed the new bridge approximately three miles east, near the Swal- low place.

Bridge located S.W. 5-2-21-4 on Highway 62 Near Roland Swallow's Place

An old hundred foot steel bridge existed at this site in 1955 but no records can be found in the Bridge Branch to show when it was built. The steel was of light loading and was of the link and pin type and was thought to have been fabricated in 1900. It is assumed that this bridge was constructed about 1933 or 1934. For a time both this bridge and the one at the Taylor place were in use. It was sold by tender when the new bridge was completed because it was not suitable for use elsewhere.

In September 1955 a new 54-74-54-foot steel girder bridge on a concrete substructure was constructed by Bridge Foreman J. Short. During the summer of 1979 this bridge was repaired and resurfaced.

Bridge located N.E. 10-2-21-4 by Hillmer's Place

On December 16, 1918 a petition requesting a bridge was sent to the Bridge Branch of the Department of Transportation. On June 28, 1923 a letter was sent from J. F. Gagan asking the department to pay $150.00 for part of a wagon and a horse lost while trying to ford the Milk River.

In May 1945 four 25 foot timber pile spans were constructed fourteen feet above the stream bed. This bridge helped to shorten school bus routes, and brought people north of the river closer to the rest of the community. On April 21, 1948 the bridge washed out leaving only the south span in place with the second span hanging. The third and fourth spans were completely carried away.

In October 1953 a steel span one hundred and twenty-five feet in length was constructed five hundred feet south of the old bridge on treated timber abutments on a stream diversion. The steel span was salvaged from Glenwood. In August 1970 the bridge was painted blue.

Bridge located S. E. 6-2-18-4 On the South Fork of the Milk River On the Road east to Milk River

On December 6, 1914 a cross section by the District Surveyor and Engineer R. J. Gordon showing the height to which ice piles up in the spring, as shown him by the Foreman of the P. Burns ranch, was submitted to the Department of Transportation.

In November 1916 a hundred foot steel span from the Dominion Bridge Co. was constructed with two twenty foot timber approach spans on the east end. In 1924 this bridge was painted. On May 27, 1928 the bridge was damaged by ice, and fifteen piles were required for repair.

In October 1964 a 66-83-66 foot continuous composite steel girder bridge on a concrete substructure was constructed, one hundred and twenty feet upstream from the existing bridge, by Bridge Foreman T. L. Frayn.

These five bridges in their present locations are heavily travelled in all seasons of the year, and give easy access to the area between the north and south forks of the Milk River.

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Copyright 2000
Mary Tollestrup