Two Bridges Over the Roseau

Reid Dickie

One of my heritage projects this summer is to photograph and film as many interesting bridges as I can find. The two train bridges a few posts back were the start of the series. The next episode in “Spanning Something in Manitoba” offers two bridges over the same river, the Roseau River in southern Manitoba.

The Roseau River is a relatively short (344 km) river whose headwaters are in northern Minnesota and which drains into the Red River west of Dominion City, thus part of the Hudson Bay watershed. The Roseau can carry a lot of water some springs and often floods the surrounding area which includes numerous First Nations. By mid-August 2012 it is a sluggish shallow pond lumbering toward its destiny.

At Gardenton, MB this wooden truss bridge spans the Roseau River. Built in 1918 using a model called the Howe truss, the relatively rare Howe truss, patented in 1840 by Massachusetts millwright William Howe, includes vertical members and diagonals that slope up towards the center. The diagonal web members are in compression and the vertical web members are in tension. Since the Howe truss can support heavy loads over long distances, it was hugely popular for railroad bridges. The Gardenton bridge replaced irregular ferry service and introduced a new and efficient method to move people and goods. The bridge has been designated a municipal heritage site.

A few miles downstream from the truss bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Roseau. Located northwest of the village of Roseau River in the Senkiw area, this swinging bridge was built in 1946 to allow school children to get to Senkiw school across the river. It was badly damaged in the 1950 flood and fell into disrepair after the school closed in 1967. Restored in 2000, it has been deemed a municipal heritage site.

About 140 feet long by my paces, the bridge has just enough sway and swing to make it interesting. The infrastructure that acts as footing and supports for the cables is an example of country thrift and ingenuity. The large round metal rollers with the spikes around which the cables are wound and held are threshing machine cylinders which pounded the stooks releasing the grain. In their new life secured upright against the prairie sky and wrapped in steel cables, the cylinders become sculptural symbols evoking ancient and future regimes of rust.

Suspension bridges are relatively rare in Manitoba. The swinging bridge in Souris, MB is the best known one although today, it is non-existent until a new one is built for the summer 2013.

Click now to watch my 3.75 minute video on these bridges.

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Filed under Bridges, Day Tripping, Manitoba Heritage, Natural Places

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