A must-have in the terrace landscape – Terrace Standard
By Hannah Link
The Old Skeena Bridge has served as a regional icon and scenic backdrop for generations. Its latest closure for repairs is a great time to reflect on the history of such an inescapable part of the Terrace landscape.
Prior to its construction in 1925, the main viable source of transport from Thornhill to Terrace was the small car ferry. The boat would take passengers from Thornhill Creek to Ferry Island where a one-lane wooden bridge was available for them to arrive at Terrace. This method was subject to changing water levels and was not ideal for all travelers with large vehicles, as there were limited spaces on each vessel. The 1916 Victoria Times reported that the residents of Terrace were already fed up with restricted access to their community, calling on the government to build a bridge for over ten years before a bridge was built. Finally, on July 11, 1925, the Old Skeena Bridge was completed. It was officially opened by Minister of Lands TD Patullo, who would later become Prime Minister.
The Old Skeena Bridge saw impressive improvement in 1953. An increase in the regional population meant more traffic, and the promise of a new aluminum smelter in Kitimat only increased the need of a stronger bridge. The Aluminum Company of Canada (Alcan) also needed a rail line to transport goods to and from its smelter.
Canadian National (CN) was about to expand its line to include a Kitimat-Terrace line and an addition to the existing Old Skeena Bridge was deemed the best option. The BC government provided funds for the renovation, which included a new on-ramp and bridge exit, hardwood deck and cement piers to support the existing bridge and new rail line .
Nearly 50 years after its first renovation, the Old Skeena Bridge has again been redeveloped to accommodate more traffic. In 2001, the wooden bridge deck was replaced with steel grating to reduce maintenance costs. The Weekend Advertiser The newspaper reported that the bridge would be open to traffic for one and a half hours in the morning and three hours in the evening from August 13, 2001 until mid-October this year. This closure excluded public holidays and Sundays, during which there would be no traffic restrictions. This ended its era as the longest wooden curved bridge in North America.
Many Terrace residents have fond memories of the Old Skeena Bridge as a fun destination in their youth. In her 2013 oral history interview, Julia Little describes group meetings on the bridge. “We were walking to the Skeena Bridge. Some of the boys climbed to the top.
Both Mary Harris and Norma Morrison remember walking to the structure on Sunday to take pictures. It served as a gathering place for young people and a place where people could admire the beauty of our region.
The Old Skeena Bridge is under construction again. It will be closed until mid-2023 for general repairs, including improving pedestrian space and structural reinforcement.
Although the iconic structure is temporarily closed, the Old Skeena Bridge is still a powerful symbol of the region’s strength and resilience. With its new upgrades, the bridge will be able to continue to accommodate people in and out of Terrace for years to come.
Hannah Link is a museum programmer at the Heritage Park Museum in Terrace
local history museum