The Duck Bay Road Bridge spans Matchedash Bay at Waubaushene.
Duck Bay Road Bridge 2012
It was built in 1927 to connect the lands on the eastern and southern shores of Georgian Bay.
Matchedash Bay, Belden’s Atlas, 1878
Prior to the opening of this bridge settlers, lumbermen and others wanting to proceed north from Waubaushene by land had to travel from Waubaushene through Coldwater and around Matchedash Bay, an extra 20 odd miles. Correspondingly the settlers of the northern part of Tay Township and other townships to the north had to travel around Matchedash Bay when they wanted to reach Waubaushene.
In order to cross the Bay to go to school in Waubaushene, their children came by boat in the summer or across the ice in the winter, but only when conditions were favourable. In those townships settlement was duly delayed for want of proper means of communication.
The Georgian Bay Lumber Company, which at the time owned much of the land in Waubaushene, would not allow a bridge to be built across the Bay, because it would obstruct the movement of tugs and barges in front of their mills and piling yards.
View of Mill, Log Boom and Narrows c1910
The Federal Government was petitioned in 1882, 1885 and 1905 by Simcoe County to build a bridge across Matchedash Bay, to no avail. Finally, in 1927, after the Lumber Company mill had closed down, a grant was secured for the construction of the bridge. The Waubaushene community donated labour, horse power and material to help construct the bridge. Peter Gouett donated the land on the Waubaushene side for the bridge to be built. The bridge itself was moved from Atherley, Ontario where it had originally been built in 1887 as a swing bridge over the narrows. It was one of the first iron bridges built in Ontario.
Bridge Opening, June 1927
The ribbon was cut on June 11, 1927 by the Honourable William Finlayson, Provincial Minister of Lands and Forests and MPP from Midland. Bands played, children marched and at night the residents held a dance. The first vehicle to drive across it was a horse and buggy driven by Harry Gouett and his sister Loretta, and members of the Russell family were the first to cross in a car.
In the days before the development of Hwy 400 and its predecessors the bridge played a key part in the regrowth of Tay’s commerce after the lumber industry died and the new tourism industry grew. The bridge opened markets to the settlers to the north, and allowed tourists access through Waubaushene from the south.
Duck Bay Road and Bridge (left), Highway 400 (right) 2013
The original bridge was a very unique structure. It consisted of three pony – truss spans, which was rare because most multi – span bridges were through – truss bridges. The two northern spans of the bridge consisted of five panels each, while the southern span had only four panels. In 1927 the bridge’s trusses were relocated from Atherley and placed on new concrete support pillars anchored in the water at Duck Bay Road.
Since the spans at Duck Bay Road were traditional fixed truss spans, it is presumed they were the approach spans for the swing bridge.
The Duck Bay Road bridge has a distinctive appearance due to the notable grade on the end spans to ensure that the center span had enough clearance for boats. It is not possible to see one end of the bridge from the other end.
Ramp Looking North 2012
To ensure safety on the narrow bridge with its poor view of oncoming traffic, the bridge has been treated in later years as a one-lane bridge with traffic being controlled by a stop light signal at each end.
Demolition or Reconstruction
The bridge was one of the only metal truss bridges remaining in Simcoe County. Unlike other truss bridges in the County, it was treated as a heritage bridge on the Tay Township Heritage Inventory and had been repaired as needed for continued personal use. However in 1987 new weight restrictions on the bridge forced Tay Township to divert all large vehicles including buses, municipal emergency and maintenance vehicles, out onto nearby Highway 400 to service the northern parts of the Township.
Then in 2012 an engineering inspection recommended major repairs or demolition. Of course demolition would be a devastating loss of transportation heritage, especially considering how so many heritage truss bridges have been or are soon to be demolished in the County.
After public consultation and due deliberation Municipal Council authorized a $2 million bridge reconstruction project, completed in December 2015. This work involved the stabilizing and encapsulating in concrete of the existing piers, removing the original bridge, rehabilitating the abutments and installing a new truss bridge.
Duck Bay Road was closed at the bridge for roughly 3 and 1/2 months. The bridge was moved to the north ramp and cut apart for scrap.
Refurbished Piers Pushing New Span into Place
All the materials required for the reconstruction were staged on the north side. The new bridge sections were also unloaded and welded together there. The new bridge was then pushed across to the piers.
On December 4 Tay Township Mayor Scott Warnock, Council, and invited guests officially cut the ribbon on the newly reconstructed Duck Bay Bridge.
A Fire and Emergency Services Tanker Truck made the first official crossing, marking the end of 28 years of weight restrictions on the bridge.
Emergency vehicles, school buses and municipal road maintenance equipment can once more cross the bridge rather than be rerouted to Hwy 400. The new bridge maintains an essential community link for local residents and a possible alternative for Hwy 400 traffic in case of emergency.
Special thanks to Brian and Monica Ramler, Twin Bridge Marina, Waubaushene for the demolition and reconstruction pictures and commentary.
Google Earth https://www.google.ca/
Andrew S. Hunter, A History of Simcoe County, Part 2, Chapter 15
Tay Heritage Committee http://www.tay.ca/en/your-municipality/tay-heritage-committee.asp
Tay Heritage Inventory http://www.waubaushene.ca/index_files/Heritage%20Buildings/Waubaushene%20Bridge.htm
Township of Tay http: //www.tay.ca/en/news/index.aspx?newsId=a6943af6-4510-4ce1-8849-8fe8cd08ef3b