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Visiting the High Level Bridge, Lethbridge, Alberta: of its type the highest and longest in the world

Updated on February 9, 2015
Provincial flag of Alberta
Provincial flag of Alberta | Source
High Level Bridge, Lethbridge, Alberta
High Level Bridge, Lethbridge, Alberta | Source
Lethbridge High Level Trellis Viaduct
Lethbridge High Level Trellis Viaduct | Source
High Level Bridge under construction, 1908-1909
High Level Bridge under construction, 1908-1909 | Source

Aptly named engineering feat

In its day, this bridge — a railroad viaduct — was an engineering marvel.


In fact, the High Level Bridge, Lethbridge, is still a record-breaking structure. Built in 1908/ 1909, it is indeed still the longest and highest of its kind in the world. (Other, similar bridges may match it for either length or height, but none surpasses it in the combination of these features.)

Its length is 1,623.86 metres and its height is 95.7 metres from the river bed (1).

To build the bridge took 328,000 rivets and 12,436 Imperial tons of steel.

I was struck by the sheer height of the Bridge when, far below, I heard what I thought was the sound of an approaching heavy duty helicopter (a Chinook, maybe?) which turned out to be a train locomotive pulling freight wagons far above my head.

Close to the Bridge is Fort Whoop-Up, a replica of a notorious, 19th century establishment where unscrupulous traders would sell whiskey and guns to First Nations customers; it is now a National Historic Site of Canada.

Chances are, if you see a souvenir of Lethbridge, or meet someone who has visited this, Alberta's fourth city after Edmonton, Calgary and Red Deer, an image of the High Level Bridge will be printed upon it or else indelibly stamped on the person's memory.


More subjectively, but real, none the less, my impression of Lethbridge's High Level Bridge is of a structure negotiating rugged terrain which forcibly reminded my that I had truly arrived 'Out West'.

Alberta was founded as a Canadian Province in 1905. Completed November 1, 1909, the High Level Bridge is thus almost as old as Alberta itself. Confederation was 42 years old at the time. Since the early development of the Dominion in no small measure involved linking East and West by rail, the High Level Bridge may thus serve to symbolize the movement of history in the early decades of Canada since Confederation.

June 23, 2014


Note

(1) Local people refer to the bed of the Oldman River at Lethbridge as 'the River Bottom'. A nature interpretive centre is situated at 'the River Bottom'.

Map location of Lethbridge Census Division, Alberta
Map location of Lethbridge Census Division, Alberta | Source

Also worth seeing

In Lethbridge, notable sights include the Galt Museum; the Japanese Gardens; Henderson Lake with boating opportunities; a former water tower now in private hands, and converted into a restaurant, offers superb views of the surrounding area, including of the Rockies on a clear day; and many others.

Nanton (distance: 121.4 kilometres); the Air Museum particularly commemorates the contribution and sacrifice of the many Canadian aviators of Bomber Command during World War Two; the Museum notably possesses a Lancaster bomber, with its Rolls Royce Merlin engines in working order, and a decommissioned jet from the Snowbirds air demonstration team. There are various well appointed antique shops in close proximity; a former schoolhouse has been converted into a tourist information centre.


Waterton (distance: 124.6 kilometres): this outstandingly scenic location - part of Warterton-Glacier International Peace Park - has amazing views from the historic Prince of Wales Hotel over the often snow-capped Rockies and the Waterton Lakes.

St Mary, Montana, USA (distance: 133 kilometres); this small locality has a Visitor Center to Glacier National Park; with its hotels and restaurants, its scenic lake, and striking views of the Rockies make it a highly attractive destination.

...

How to get there: Air Canada, flies to Lethbridge Airport, via Calgary, with wide North American and other connections, from where car rental is available. Some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. For up to date information, please check with the airline or your travel agent. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

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

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