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COVERED BRIDGES OF THE OUTAOUAIS, PART 2

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Author: 
Matthew Farfan

(Continued from Part 1)

Town lattice, used throughout the Outaouais. (Photo - SQPC)

COVERED BRIDGES IN QUEBEC
Today in the province of Quebec, four basic types of covered bridge design have survived. These are the Town, Howe, Multiple Kingpost (unpatented), and McCallum designs. Examples of the Multiple Kingpost (3) and the Howe truss (2) survive in Quebec only in the Eastern Townships, while the world’s only surviving McCallum bridge may be seen in Powerscourt, in the Châteauguay Valley.

Marois Bridge, Gracefield, 1984. Privately owned, this bridge may be difficult to photograph at harvest time! (Photo - Matthew Farfan)

MINISTRY OF COLONIZATION
The most common type of covered bridge in Quebec is the Town truss or lattice, patented by Ithiel Town in 1820. The vast majority of Quebec’s covered bridges are a version of the Town lattice design. This is true of bridges in Abitibi, Gaspé, and all other parts of the province, including the Outaouais. The reason for this is simple. When the government of Quebec created its Ministry of Colonization and Mines in the 1890s, with an eye to opening up vast new regions of the province to settlement, it was this department that built the large majority of the province’s roads and bridges after that date. And from the outset, government engineers opted for one covered bridge design: the Town lattice.

De L’Aigle Bridge, Egan-Sud, winter 1980. Steel girders at each end of this bridge now prevent trucks from damaging the portals. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)

The lattice design was considered fairly simple to build, and, given the province’s unlimited supply of timber, reasonably economical. The Ministry did, however, introduce a number of important modifications to Town’s original patent, including the use of metal nails instead of wooden pegs, reducing the dimensions of the timbers, and adding metal tension rods and vertical posts.(1) Quebec’s version of the Town truss is sometimes referred to as the “Town Variant”.

COVERED BRIDGES IN THE OUTAOUAIS
Each of the surviving covered bridges in the Outaouais is distinctive in its own right. Some are spectacular. Together they make for an interesting tour, and offer some wonderful opportunities to explore the splendid Gatineau Valley and (in the case of Fort Coulonge) the Pontiac. Savoyard Bridge, Grand-Remous, after a snow storm, winter 1980. Note the rapids at right. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)

The bridges are as follows:
1) Ruisseau-Meech Bridge. Town of Chelsea. South of Farm Point on chemin Cross Loop. Meech Creek. 1 span. 19.8 metres (65 feet). Town truss. Date: 1924. [World Guide No. 61-25-12]. This modest little bridge is located on a quiet country road within the boundaries of Gatineau Park. Spanning a brook at the bottom of a valley, it is surrounded by pastures and rolling hills in a beautiful setting.

2) Wakefield (Gendron) Bridge. Village of Wakefield (La Pêche). Chemin Gendron. Gatineau River. 2 spans. 87.8 metres (288 feet). Town truss. Date: 1997. [World Guide No. 61-25-07].The Wakefield covered bridge is an authentic reconstruction of the historic Gendron Bridge (1915), which was burned by an arsonist in 1984. The project, which was spearheaded by a local committee that used in large part volunteer labour and donated materials, took thirteen years to complete. Today, the bridge is a landmark in the village of Wakefield and a testament both to the determination of a community intent on preserving its heritage and to the fact that the building techniques of long ago have not been forgotten. This bridge, which is open only to cyclists and pedestrians, is a must-see for anyone visiting this area.

3) Barry Kelly Bridge. Town of Low. Chemin du Lac-Pike. Stag River. 1 span. 26.8 metres (88 feet). Town truss. Date: 1923. [World Guide No. 61-25-13]. This picturesque bridge is located at the base of a steep hill, on a back road west of Low. Marchand Bridge, Fort Coulonge, 2005. Note the protective steel girders and “stepped-back” portals which shield the structure from rain. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)

4) Cousineau Bridge. Town of Gracefield. Chemin Ruisseau-des-Cerises. Picanoc River. 1 span. 29.9 metres (98 feet). Town truss. Date: 1932. [World Guide No. 61-25-08]. Located west of Gracefield, this pretty bridge is named after a nearby sawmill.

5) Marois Bridge (private property). Town of Gracefield. Route 105 at the junction of chemin Point-Comfort. Tributary of the Gatineau River. 1 span. 29.9 metres (98 feet). Town truss. Date: 1933. [World Guide No. 61-25-02].This bridge was purchased by the current owner for a nominal sum when it was by-passed some years ago.

6) De L’Aigle Bridge. Town of Egan-Sud. Chemin de l’Aigle. Désert River. 1 span. 39.0 metres (128 feet). Town truss. Date: 1925. [World Guide No. 61-25-11]. Located off the beaten track, northeast of Maniwaki, this bridge is surrounded by farmland.

7) Savoyard Bridge. Town of Grand-Remous. South of Grand Remous, off Route 105, on chemin du Pont-Rouge. Gatineau River. 2 spans. 72.8 metres (239 feet). Town Truss. Date: 1931. [World Guide No. 61-25-15]. At 72.8 metres (239 feet), and painted a brilliant shade of red, this covered bridge is truly a splendid sight and well worth a visit. The northernmost covered bridge on the Gatineau, it spans the river at a strategic point just above the rapids. During the era of the big log drives on the river, a trap door in the bridge (which is still visible) allowed log-drivers to access the logjams in the eddy below the rapids. Interpretive panels provide information on the history of the log drive. Morning mist, Marchand Bridge, 2005. (Photo - Matthew Farfan)

8) Marchand Bridge. Village of Fort Coulonge (Mansfield-et-Pontefract). Chemin de la Station. Coulonge River. 6 spans. 152.1 metres (499 feet). Town truss and Queenpost. Date: 1898. [World Guide No. 61-53-01].Arguably the longest covered bridge in the province, the Marchand Bridge is an amazing structure and a must-see for anyone visiting this part of the Pontiac. Not only has the bridge had a colourful history, but very rarely do people have the chance to cross a covered bridge of this length. The bridge is still open to motorized traffic. (For more on the controversy surrounding the distinction of which bridge is the longest in Quebec and on the history of the Marchand Bridge, see the article, Marchand Covered Bridge: A Pontiac Giant, elsewhere on this site).

Reference:
1) Société québécoise des ponts couverts, Les Ponts Rouges du Québec, 1999.