The Similkameen Valley’s most photographed site, and the last remaining covered bridge in Western Canada, is part of a new Canada Post heritage stamp series featuring historical covered bridges in Canada.
Built in 1907, the Red Bridge was a former railway bridge crossing the Similkameen River, which carried the Great Northern Railway over the river near Keremeos.
It was rebuilt in 1926 and restored in 2005.
Anna Bartlett has lived in Keremeos for 64 years. She said the bridge symbolizes the good times she had as a child, jumping off it and swimming in the river with friends.
“At one point, it was a place where all the locals met to swim. We’d have picnics and jump off the bridge. In those days, everybody did. It was a major highlight of the summer,” Bartlett said.
The Canada Post stamp features a photograph of the bridge, its name, the year it opened and other key details, including the length of the span and the type of trusses used.
Swimming at the Red Bridge was such an important community activity a sawmill in the village would construct a diving board, replacing it each year when it broke off and washed down the river, Bartlett said.
Another fond memory Bartlett has is of watching the trains cross the bridge carrying ice to sell in the United States.
“In those days, ice was a big commodity which people would use for freezing and in freezers. Ice would be brought down from the mountains,” she said.
The bridge is also a real eye catcher, she said, which is what she thinks makes it so popular with tourists.
“If you are coming down from the west and you see this bridge across the river with the blue river and the blue sky and this big red covered bridge,” she said.
“It’s really amazing if you think about it.”
In 1954, the railway tracks on the bridge were removed and it was converted for vehicle traffic in 1961. It is now used as a highway bridge to access the Ashnola Valley. The bridge is 942 feet in length.
In addition to a stamp, the bridge is featured on a postage-paid postcard. The four other postcards feature New Brunswick’s Hartland Covered Bridge, the Powerscourt Bridge and Félix-Gabriel-Marchand Bridge in Quebec and Ontario’s West Montrose Covered Bridge.
Over the years, the Red Bridge was vandalized and damaged from ice jams, reports the Okanagan Similkameen Parks Society. In 2005, $700,000 was put toward restoring and upgrading the bridge.
As part of the restoration project, a contractor was hired to install cladding on the outside while steel panels were placed on the inside to prevent vandals from kicking out the cladding.
Members of the Red Bridge committee and volunteers from Keremeos painted the boards.