The task of the United States Army Corps of Engineers was to build a pioneer road for military traffic from Dawson Creek to Big Delta, Alaska. This meant fording rivers and creeks in the most expedient, if not permanent, way possible. The responsibility for creating a more durable, all season highway fell to civilian contractors who followed closely behind the troops and were coordinated by the United States Public Roads Administration.
Though there were many timber bridges built by these civilian workers, the Kiskatinaw Bridge is one of the most unusual ones, curving nine degrees along its 162.5 metre (534 foot) length.
The bridge, the first of its kind in Canada, was built in 1942-43 by Dow Construction of Toronto. Cement footings were put in place in November 1942 using gravel hauled 26 kilometres (16 miles) from a crushing plant at the Peace River. An extreme cold snap that month made it necessary to enclose all concrete pedestals and piers and keep them heated to 22 degrees celsius (72 degrees fahrenheit) for 10 days. This was no mean feat given that the work involved almost 610 cubic metres (800 cubic yards) of concrete.
The bridge is a three span, timber truss structure built 30 metres (100 feet) above the stream. Approximately 500,000 board feet of creosoted British Columbia fir were used in its construction. The fir was shipped from coastal B.C. to the railhead at Dawson Creek. It should have arrived in early 1943, well before spring thaw, but was not delivered until April. Breakup made for a tough haul through the mud from Dawson Creek. Further construction delays occurred when the temporary log bridge and much of the scaffolding were damaged by spring runoff that year and had to be replaced.
In the postwar years, trucks with loads that exceeded the bridge’s maximum 25-tonne capacity had to avoid the bridge and ford the river instead. This proved especially inconvenient for the expanding oil and gas industry and, in 1978, a new road was built that bypassed the bridge and, so secured its survival. Kiskatinaw Provincial Park provides access to the river and interesting views of the bridge's structure.
Drivers are advised that the Old Kiskatinaw Bridge on the Old Alaskan Highway Road (Kiskatinaw Road) is temporarily closed. There is currently no estimated time of reopening.
Province of British Columbia
Research Compiled by Alaska Highway 50th Anniversary Celebration Society