The historic Bedspring Bridge across Williams Creek in the San Juan Valley offered an exciting experience for adventurous travellers.

The historic Bedspring Bridge across Williams Creek in the San Juan Valley offered an exciting experience for adventurous travellers.

SOOKE HISTORY: Bedspring Bridge was unforgettable experience

Historic span crossed Williams Creek in the upper San Juan Valley

Backwoods roads have always been popular with folks who like getting out into the wilderness.

We’re told that driving onto the Bedspring Bridge which crossed Williams Creek in the upper San Juan Valley was a never to be forgotten experience.

Taking in the view from this bridge in the mid-1960s we see Lew Dempsey, local Sooke RCMP detachment officer in-charge during the 1960s, with his wife Ioline and their family.

The entire watershed areas of the San Juan River, Bear Creek and Harris Creek were crisscrossed by logging railroads and then later by truck routes, offering spectacular views of deep gorges.

Gerry Burch, long-retired now from his position as chief forester and superintendent of B.C. Forest Products Ltd, came to re-visit Sooke and Renfrew recently and spoke of the time that the bridge was built, around 1960.

A young graduate forester at the time, he was working along with a Bear Creek engineer, Glen Forrester, who designed the “bedspring bridge.”

BCFP officials had learned that the cable car ferry system on the Fraser River linking Boston Bar and North Bend was installing new cable; accordingly, the used cables were for sale. No sooner heard than purchased – BCFP bought the cable lengths which began a new life supporting the planked bridge deck shown here, with four strands strung underneath.

While heavy equipment could not take this route, the Bedspring Bridge provided an access route for work crews in the San Juan Valley to reach Shawnigan Lake.

Gerry recalled that it was considered a bit scary to cross the bridge and drivers were warned not to stop in the middle but to drive straight through.

Doug MacFarlane, comparing notes with Gerry Burch and Lorne Christensen about their younger days in the San Juan, had his own memories.

He still remembers with shock coming upon a group of young people one day, who were perched on the edge of the bridge stringers, legs dangling over, beer bottles in hand, apparently oblivious to the drop of several hundred feet to the creek bed below.

Though this legendary bridge has been dismantled for two or three decades now, we are glad our collection includes this photo from Jube Wickheim, making sure this fascinating piece of local lore is not totally lost to us.

•••

Elida Peers is the historian of Sooke Region Museum.

 

 

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