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The Footbridge at Carcross, Yukon

A Guide to Carcross

    This photo album shows the background of the footbridge across the Nares (Natasaheeni) River at Carcross, and the construction of a new steel bridge in the summer of 2007.

Click on each photo to greatly enlarge it.

The wagon bridge at Carcross in 1905 1905 - a wagon bridge was built across the outlet of Lake Bennett, later called the Nares River or Natasaheeni, to access silver mines that were being developed on Montana Mountain by John Conrad and others.

2004 - in 1978, a wooden footbridge was built to replace the wagon bridge. It quickly became a significant location for residents and visitors to socialize and enjoy fishing for Arctic grayling for much of the period that Lake Bennett isn't frozen (April through November roughly). This photo was taken on October 10, 2004.

By 2004 the bridge was in very poor condition due mostly to rotting wood. On May 12, an application was put in to the Northern Infrastructure Component of the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund (CSIF) for $3 million to build a new bridge and make many other improvements to the waterfront area of Carcross.

2005 - with the funding approved for a new bridge, the deterioration of the bridge accelerated to the point that it was no longer safe, and the Yukon Government formally closed it. This photo was taken on May 11, 2005.

2006 - despite the closure, many locals continued to use the bridge that had become so important to them, by either climbing around or tearing down the barricades. In the enlarged version of this October 19, 2006, photo, you can see that much of the railing at the far end of the bridge has collapsed.

March 2007 - following an extensive evaluation of the possible environmental and socio-economic impacts of the project, the bridge tender was awarded to M. Johnson Construction of Galway, British Columbia, for $1.72 million. On March 20, 2007, company representatives met with government representatives and local engineers for a site inspection.

May 2007 - materials started to arrive the first week of May. This shot taken from my deck on May 7 shows where all the steel and timbers are unloaded from the trucks.

The Carcross dune system is one of the very few places in the world where the little grass seen in this photo grows. Although common here, Baikal sedge (Carex sabulosa) is listed as a "threatened" species by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), and a patch of 80-100 plants is protected at the material unloading area by this snow fence.

Everything then has to be hauled down the beach a few hundred yards to the construction site. This photo, also taken on May 7, shows the large-diameter pilings for the temporary bridge that will support the pile driver as it drives the smaller pilings for the permanent bridge.

May 12 - one of the construction camps takes shape (there is another camp a couple of hundred feet away in town).

May 15 - most of the old bridge was demolished. The wood was offered to locals, and whatever materials weren't taken was trucked to the garbage dump 2 miles away.

May 23 - the site is ready for construction to begin. At this extreme low water level, some of the pilings from the 1905 bridge can be seen in the foreground.

May 24 & 25 - high winds blew the last of the ice off Lake Bennett.

May 30 - the piledriver, which was brought in from Ontario, is hard at work. A heavy but temporary bridge is being built for it to work from - the lighter permanent bridge will be built on the upstream side of it, generally on the same site as the wooden bridge.

May 30 - Pilings are being driven to bedrock, an average of 130 feet (some 25 feet beyond what had been estimated). Welders perched on this platform must weld piling sections together to reach that depth.

June 1 - one of the first White Pass & Yukon Route passenger trains of the new Carcross-Skagway service passes the bridge construction site.

June 8 - the extremely heavy snow pack from the past winter (almost double the normal amount) resulted in water levels rising far faster than had been exected. Crews seen here are preparing to raise the level of the temporary bridge. The clean water on the left is from Lake Bennett, the dirty water on the right from the Watson River, which flows into the lake at the far end of the beach, just over a mile away.

Stating the obvious, this sign warns that the bridge is unsafe and closed until further notice.

June 12 - the crane lowers another section of wooden decking onto a new section of temporary bridge.

June 12 - work begins on the concrete footings for the south end of the permanent bridge.

June 14 - another section of the temporary bridge takes shape.

June 15 - work continues on the concrete footings for the north end of the permanent bridge. The first 2 pilings of the bridge were driven today - approval of the depth and stability by an engineer was required to proceed with more.

June 17 - setting the forms for the south footings, and driving more of the permanent pilings.

June 20 - with the first 6 permanent pilings driven, the prefabricated steel sections of the permanent bridge were delivered and brought down the beach to the construction area.

June 21 - in the light of the longest day of the year, cross-braces are welded on to the permanent pilings.

June 23 - moving another section of the permanent bridge down the beach into the staging area.

June 24 - the last of the pre-fabricated steel sections of the north end of the permanent bridge is lowered into place.

June 26 - Disassembling of the temporary bridge continues. Everything is trucked around to the south side of the channel, which offers little room to store materials due to homes, a road along the river and little level ground.

June 26 - the moving of the equipment and bridge materials to the south end of the channel made for some very busy scenes!

June 27 - pulling the temporary pilings was made possible by using compressed air and a shaker to wiggle them loose.

July 16 - construction of the temporary bridge on the south side continues, and the initial pour of concrete for the footings has been made.

July 16 - this shot shows just how tight the working space on the south side is. The piling is being hauled from a storage area about a block away.

July 16 - the water levels have now reached record levels and show every indication of going much higher, so the sandy approach to the north end needed to be raised and reinforced with rock.

July 17 - work continues on the temporary bridge, and driving the permanent pilings has begun.

July 17 - a shot of the congested south storage and preparation area.

July 17 - welding some piling sections back together.

August 2 - I returned from 2 weeks on the road to find the permanent bridge in place, and removal of the temporary one almost finished.

August 11 - a detail shot of the steel structure that will soon be covered by wood.

August 18 - now it looks like a footbridge! The wood went on very quickly.

August 18 - finishing the concrete footings as the wood installation continues.

August 18 - this shot shows the extensions on the bridge which will allow people to fish out of the way of walkers.

August 30 - these barriers were installed to prevent ATVs and snowmobiles from using the bridge. This was a decision that wasn't without controversy, but will keep pedestrians safe and greatly reduce maintenance of the bridge deck.

August 30 - final grading of the viewing area at the south end was done today.

August 30 - people were fishing from the bridge as work continued on the south end. A huge school of "herring" (actually they're least cisco) and a few lake trout were the attraction.

August 30 - installation of the vehicle barriers continues.

August 31 - cleanup has started. Here, the equipment container is removed from the north end of the bridge.

August 31 - a few final adjustments are made, the south end viewing area is raked and the timbers which allowed equipment to cross the WP&YR tracks are removed. And that's it - the Johnson crew will head south in a couple of days, and Carcross has a beautiful new footbridge!

September 27 - the official opening of the new footbridge.