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Visiting Renfrew, Ontario: An Historic, Swinging Bridge First Built in 1895

Updated on November 13, 2020
Provincial flag of Ontario
Provincial flag of Ontario | Source
Renfrew, Ontario
Renfrew, Ontario | Source
Renfrew, Ontario
Renfrew, Ontario | Source

Gushing waters; swinging bridge

In Canada, the Capilano Suspension Bridge and the Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge are perhaps more well known to tourists in British Columbia (1). But a comparable, though smaller, bridge exists in Renfrew, Ontario.

First built in 1895 (2) by W. H Kearney and family, the Swinging Bridge is among the more well-known landmarks in Renfrew, Ontario, in the Ottawa Valley.

A tributary of the Ottawa River, the Bonnechere River (3) is at times wide and fast-flowing. In places, the condition of rapids prevails; at times of low rainfall, the river slows to merely a trickle. But, in any case, before the days of motor vehicles the need for a long détour for some neighbourhoods on the town was thus precluded by the successful efforts to build a wooden swinging footbridge bridge between the banks of the Bonnechere, some distance downriver from another local crossing.

Originally a plank and wire construction, the current Swinging Bridge is made of wood and cable.

At times the swinging bridge has undergone restoration, notably in 1983 and 2015. The local authorities which monitor the condition of the swinging bridge have periodically closed the bridge as a precaution over safety concerns; visitors are naturally advised to follow any posted restrictions which may from time to time be in force. (4)

Road access to a location close to the Swinging Bridge may be obtained in the vicinity of 65 Arthur Avenue, Renfrew, ON.

March 25, 2020


(1) But in this connection, it is interesting that the well known travel website — see (2), below — has included Renfrew's Swinging Bridge as a tourist attraction in its own right.

(2) Some sources give 1885 as the original date of construction; a plaque at the bridge itself gives 1895; for an inventory of photos of the bridge and plaque, see also:;aggregationId=101&albumid=101&filter=7&ff=336452845

(3) In its transliteration from its likely French source 'bonne chère', the habitual English spelling of the river has lost a grave accent over one of the letters 'e'. The Bonnechere River rises in the Algonquin Provincial Park and runs a length of 145 kilometres.

(4) As I recall, at times when my wife and I have visited Renfrew, the bridge has been open for use; and at other times it has been closed off.

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Also worth seeing

In Renfrew itself, the McDougall Mill Museum, in a stone building dating from 1855, overlooks the Bonnechere River; other notable buildings include the stone Government of Canada Building, with a conspicuous clock tower, dating from 1909; Bonnechere Provincial Park is located near the town.

In Ottawa (distance: 93.9 kilometres), among the numerous visitor attractions are: Parliament Hill; the National War Memorial of Canada; Château Laurier; the Rideau Canal; Laurier House; Rideau Hall; the Bank of Canada Currency Museum; the Supreme Court of Canada Building, and many others.

Gatineau , Quebec (distance 94.1 kilometres); the Canadian Museum of Civilization (Musée canadien des civilisations), in Gatineau is Canada's most visited museum. Gatineau's Citizen's House (French: Masion du citoyen) has a noted art gallery and the Hall of the Nations (French: Hall des nations) containing valuable cultural artifacts from around the world. Gatineau Park (French: Parc de la Gatineau) has exceptional recreational and scenic possibilities.


How to get there: Air Canada flies from various North American destinations to Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport / Aéroport international Macdonald-Cartier d'Ottawa (distance from Renfrew, Ontario: 98 kilometres); car rental is available. At Renfrew, Highways 17, 60 and 132 intersect. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

Map of Ontario highlighting Renfrew County
Map of Ontario highlighting Renfrew County | Source

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