2  ̶  The Bridge

Drone view of Sturgeon Bridge on the CNR, looking NW downriver in 2021. Kinghorn Falls are out of sight. Rails have been removed. The piles (upright posts or poles) in the river are what remains of the catwalk (refer to Chapter 4). Photo Dave Battistel.

A short walk on a well-trodden trail brings one to a small cove and face-to-face with Kinghorn Falls.

Short trail from the loop road to the falls.

The water level has dropped so dramatically that one can walk across mud flats to where the trail picks up in the trees.

Kinghorn Falls, looking SE on August 5, 2021.
The trail around the cove is rarely used.

At this point I started looking around for bears. I had neglected to bring my Crocodile Dundee Bowie persuader. I had a tiny penknife which would have merely scratched a curious Yogi. And, I found the uneven trail unbalancing and only thin dead branches to lean on. I promised myself to acquire one of Dr. Jim Morris‘s bear sticks* at next opportunity.

The business end of a bear stick.

It is a beautiful spot, one of the hidden treasures of the Greenstone Region. I indulged myself with photographs of a variety of wildflowers before I turned around.

Behind the wheel, I reached the Kinghorn Road in 0.3 km and turned south. At the entrance to the ballast pit, I turned left, paralleling the railway right-of-way on the south side.

Annotated section of Map 42E/11, Wildgoose Lake, dated 1977.
Looking west from the Kinghorn Road. The CN Police have erected warning signs along the railway corridor-cum-ATV trail. This sign has escaped the wrath of ventilators.
Looking east across the Kinghorn Road. A crude road to the ballast pit parallels the ATV trail.
An old undated map shows the ballast pit just west of the Sturgeon Bridge. A very faint annotation proves the pit area was used at one time by Abitibi Paper Co. Ltd. for logging operations. In 1937, Abitibi Power and Paper Company began cutting and river/lake drives in the Lake Nipigon watershed. In 1965, Abitibi changed its name to Abitibi Paper Company Ltd. Image courtesy of Dave Battistel.

One old map identifies this wide empty space as a ballast pit. Some debris from logging operations litters some of the pit floor. The “pit” is a flat area. Sometime in the past, a ridge of gravel was excavated to create the flat area. Mechanical shovels loaded pit run into gondola cars on a railway spur, the tracks and rail bed now long gone. As one approaches the bridge on a crude road, one passes the last remnant of the gravel ridge.

At a point 0.6 km from the Kinghorn Road, I parked where the road met the ATV trail and walked the last hundred metres.

View of the west end of the bridge, looking east.

The CNR, after lifting the rails, made a practice of placing a pre-cast concrete barrier on either end of a bridge. The barriers do block travel by motor vehicles but ATV’s usually find a way around, and such is the case here.

View from the bridge looking SE. Through the safety railing, note the piles in the water. The walkway inside the railing is composed of sturdy planks.

From the bridge, there is a view of Partridge Lake to the south and east. The view includes an RV campsite. At the east end of the bridge, it appears that some heavy-duty vehicle displaced the barrier to leave a wider opening. A metal stake marks CN’s fibre optic cable. At this point I paused for lunch.

View from the east end, looking west.
An operational fibre optic cable is buried under the edge of the rail bed about a metre deep. It is used for long-distance telecommunications.

You know, in the Old West, self-appointed vigilantes brought a kind of rough justice to the wild frontier. In the New North, ventilators display their disdain for law and order. Official signs often become targets.

Signs that play dead do not pose a threat to ventilators.

Crossing the bridge again, I noted certain aspects of the deck. The foundation is closely spaced creosoted ties. Many of the spikes that held the rails and plates are still embedded in the ties.

Drone view looking east to west. Photo Dave Battistel.
View of the the bridge underpinnings. Photo Dave Battistel.
View of the bridge deck, looking W. Portions of the cross-ties have been covered in gravel. Sometimes the board walkway alternates with metal grillwork.

The Sturgeon Bridge is a solid piece of engineering. In another fifty years, one will still be able to walk cross it. In a hundred, perhaps crawl across it. By that time, it may cost a million dollars to remove it.

View looking downriver, NW. Note that portions of the safety railing are wooden. A light breeze through the poplars muffled the sound of the distant falls.

This is a bridge with history.

Note*: Check the post A Stick With Attitude.

(continued in Chapter 3  ̶  The History)

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