Canada had over 1,400 covered bridges in rural areas at the end of the 19th century. Today, there are only 140 that still stand, located primarily in Quebec, New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia and Prince Edward Island.
Considered an engineering marvel for its time with seven Howe trusses supporting six piers, the Hartland Bridge, the longest covered bridge today at 391 metres, is still a working bridge in use. Located in Hartland, New Brunswick, and built in 1901, the bridge was covered in 1922 and has been in use ever since.
What’s a covered bridge and how does it differ from other bridges? A covered bridge consists of timber and trusses and has a roof, decking and siding for an enclosed effect. A truss is essentially a strong framework of rafters, posts, and struts to provide support for a roof or bridge.
The cover is meant to protect against inclement weather. Wooden bridges without covers are more vulnerable in harsh weather and can last only up to 20 years. However, a covered bridge can survive for 100 years or more!
Covered bridges exist today in rural areas and are remnants of former lifestyles. They are charming and beautiful to behold. The Canadian postal service has put out a series of commemorative stamps to honor the tradition of covered bridges and the few existing bridges that remain today.
Some of the most well-known covered bridges in Canada include the Percy Bridge in Quebec built in 1861 known for its McCallum inflexible arched-truss design. Built in 1898, the Félix-Gabriel-Marchand Bridge at 152 metres, is the longest and oldest covered bridge in Quebec. This distinctive covered bridge has both Queen Post and Town lattice trusses.
In British Columbia, there is one active covered bridge today in use, the Ashnola No. 1 railroad bridge. Built in 1907 and rebuilt again in 1926, the bridge spans 135 metres in length across the Similkameen River and has Howe trusses in wood paneling and cross-bracing overhead. In 1961, the bridge was reinforced to sustain automobile use.
In Ontario, the Montrose Bridge at 60 metres, in Montrose, a small town outside of the Kitchener-Waterloo area is the last remaining historic covered bridge still in use. Spanning the Grand River, this bridge has both Howe trusses and louvered window openings.
Ontario also has 35 smaller covered bridges spanning creeks, ponds and small rivers and that are used recreationally for biking and walking mostly.
The vast majority of covered bridges in Canada today are located in the East, clustered in New Brunswick and Quebec. Quebec has 98 bridges in use today. New Brunswickhas 58 covered bridges in use today, of which 54 are maintained by the government. Nearby Prince Edward Island has two small covered bridges still in use today.
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