Hi-Level Road Bridge
Bulkley Canyon Suspension Bridge
Links and documents
1931/01/01 to 1932/01/01
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The present day Hagwilget Bridge is a single-lane steel suspension bridge located along Highway 62 (New Hazelton Hi-Level Road), between the Village of Hazelton and the District of New Hazelton in northwestern British Columbia. The highway approach to the bridge runs through Hagwilget Indian Reserve (IR) 1 and crosses to Tsitsk IR 3.
Suspended over the Bulkley River canyon, the bridge is constructed of steel and cable, with one tower at either end, and cement abutments at the approaches to the bridge. The main suspended span consists of a trussed steel deck, 140 metres long and 4.9 metres wide, located 80 metres above the Bulkley River. This contemporary bridge was designed by Alexander Carruthers and was opened in 1932, with upgrades in 1990 and 2003.
This historic place includes the contemporary bridge (Carruthers) and its approaches, the footings from the previous bridge (built by Craddock and Co. in 1912), and the physical site of the earlier aboriginal bridges which no longer exist. The footings of the Craddock bridge are located approximately 30 metres north of the existing bridge on either side of the canyon. The aboriginal bridge site is located approximately 80 metres south of the existing structure on either side of the canyon.
The Hagwilget Bridge is the most recent version of a canyon crossing that has had great significance as a key transportation and communication link in the Kitimat-Stikine region for at least a century.
The Hagwilget Bridge is valued for its spatial and temporal evolution. The name 'Hagwilget Bridge' signifies a number of different bridges which have been well documented since the late 19th century, and which existed prior to visual or written documentation. The earliest bridges are known through First Nations oral histories. All versions of this bridge have existed on one of the three sites within this single historic place: the site of the current 1932 bridge, the site of the 1912 bridge built by Craddock and Co., and the site where the aboriginal bridges existed.
The heritage value of the Hagwilget Bridge also lies in the continuity of its use over time. Since the time of the aboriginal-built bridges, the Hagwilget Bridge has always been an important part of an extensive regional transportation system that has connected communities and transported people, goods and ideas across vast distances.
Similarly, this bridge holds heritage value for its role of connecting the inland First Nation communities with coastal First Nations communities, resulting in important and invaluable trade networks. The aboriginal bridges were located at a strategic point, providing an important link between the inland Wet'suwet'en nation on the east side of the canyon and the Gitxsan on the west side. The bridge currently connects the communities of Hazelton and New Hazelton.
The Hagwilget Bridge is valued for its association with Chief Charles of Hagwilget, who owned the aboriginal bridge in the late 1800s, and Alexander Carruthers, who designed the present-day version of the bridge. Mr. Carruthers later became Inspector of Bridges and Deputy Minister of Highways for the Province of British Columbia.
The Hagwilget Bridge is valued for the various complex engineering technologies that have been used over time to span the Bulkley River Canyon. Early images of the aboriginal bridges reveal a cantilever bridge with a central suspended span built with wood and rope, and later with wood and telegraph wire. The 1912 version was a suspension bridge of wood and wrought iron. When it opened in 1932, the present-day steel and cable bridge was the highest suspension bridge in Canada.
This bridge also has historic value for its association with key regional historic themes, such as settlement and economic change, which are reflected in the evolution of bridge form and construction materials. Originally, the aboriginal bridges were built of natural local materials, until the bridge was reportedly strengthened with telegraph wire when crews from Collins Western Union Overland Telegraph moved through this area in the late 1800s. As the region was settled by newcomers, the economy changed, better commercial transportation was needed and in 1912 Craddock and Co. built a wire and cable replacement for the aboriginal bridge at a new site nearby. Unfortunately, this bridge was too narrow for cars, and in 1931, with the possibility of the road becoming part of a new highway to the Yukon, construction began on the present bridge. The most recent version of the Hagwilget Bridge reflects the increase in commercial traffic in the area and the burgeoning regional industries of the mid 1900s. More recently, upgrades to this bridge were required to increase its load-carrying capacity due to changes in the size and tonnage of trucks passing through the region.
The Hagwilget Bridge also has heritage value as an important regional landmark. The bridge and its immediate surroundings, including the physical form of the canyon with its rock cliffs and natural benches, are valued for the spectacular views they provide, and are popular vantage points for visitors to the site.
Source: Kitimat-Stikine Regional District Planning Department
Key character-defining elements that contribute to the heritage value of the Hagwilget Bridge site include:
- the single-lane suspension bridge form of the present-day bridge
- its spectacular location high above the Bulkley River at the canyon
- its historic location on a key transportation route
- its continuing use as a transportation and communication route connecting communities and people across the canyon and across the region
- the rock cliffs from which the bridges have been suspended over time
- the original site of the aboriginal bridges
- the remaining concrete footings from the 1912 bridge built by Craddock and Co.
- the informal bridge viewing sites located on the natural grass benches above the canyon
- views of the bridge from elsewhere on the site, and from the bridge to the surrounding canyon
Local Governments (BC)
Local Government Act, s.954
Community Heritage Register
Theme - Category and Type
- Developing Economies
- Technology and Engineering
- Developing Economies
- Communications and Transportation
Function - Category and Type
- Bridge, Tunnel or Other Engineering Work
Architect / Designer
Craddock and Company
Location of Supporting Documentation
Kitimat-Stikine Regional District Planning Department
Cross-Reference to Collection