Nipissing First Nation timber bridge recognized for design excellence

The Duchesnay Creek Bridge connects the City of North Bay and the Nipissing First Nation in Northern Ontario. 

A timber bridge developed in part by the Nipissing First Nation has won a design award. 

The bridge, located along the shorelines of Lake Nipissing in northern Ontario, was awarded the Northern Ontario Excellence Award for Wood Design on Dec. 2 by representatives from Wood WORKS! Ontario, according to a report in

Originally constructed in 1937, the Duchesnay Creek Bridge connects the City of North Bay and the Nipissing First Nation. In 2021, it was replaced with a one-of-a-kind structure, built using laminated, high-quality Douglas Fir girders.

Built through a limited partnership of Nipissing First Nation and Miller Paving, the $17 million project provided economic and training opportunities for the community, embraced the enhanced use of timber, and respected the bridge’s historical origins. 

The Miller Group is part of the Progressive Aboriginal Relations (PAR) program, which is provided by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business (CCAB).

Nipissing-Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota presented the award to Chief Scott McLeod and to Matt Curry and Anthony Akomah, representatives from the Ministry of Transportation at the Elders’ Hall at the Union of Ontario Indians.

Wood WORKS! is a national program of the Canadian Wood Council that promotes the use of wood in the construction sector and in the design community. Its wood design award program recognizes innovative people and organizations involved in advancing wood in all types of construction.

The bridge opened for traffic in August 2021. It replaced an older span which was closed in January 2019 due to structural concerns. 

The new 83-metre-long structure features a timber main span, the only one of its kind in Ontario. This choice was made during the design phase to pay homage to the original structure. The bridge consists of a three-span glued laminated (glulam) girder bridge with arched glulam braces at the piers. 

The bridge project construction itself involved a joint venture team involving Miller Paving and members from Nipissing First Nation. 

“The Duchesnay Creek Bridge Replacement is a prime example of innovative engineering and commitment to the environment using renewable wood in the bridge’s construction, and respecting the historical, cultural and architectural importance of the existing structure,” said Rota in a statement.

There is a significant transformation happening in the construction industry today,” said Steven Street, executive director of the Wood WORKS! program in Ontario. 

“New products and technologies, advanced codes, and a greater focus on reducing the carbon footprint of the built environment have led to a resurgence in wood construction. Nevertheless, timber bridges are still uncommon, so it is exciting to have an opportunity to celebrate culturally and architecturally significant projects like the Duchesnay Creek Bridge,” he said.

Project highlights

  • The work was completed in 2021 and spanned 23 months.
  • The project involved both pre-cast (fabricated in the Miller Northern Precast Facility) as well as cast-in-place elements, and close to 30,000 mt of aggregates.
  • The 93-metre-long (305-foot) and 12-metre-wide (39-foot) bridge consists of three spans and 12, 1,710-mm deep and 315-mm wide glue-laminated girders. Other than the girders and arches, the rest of the bridge was built with reinforced concrete — with some steel piling for the piers.
  • The project also included the pavement of the one kilometre of 17B owned by the province and the removal of an abandoned CPR railway bridge.
  • This high-visibility project also helped promote the use of mass timber in highway bridges across Canada. By building with wood, this project will result in a total carbon benefit of 991 metric tonnes of CO2, which is equivalent to taking over 190 cars off the road for a full year. 

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Larry Adams | Editor

Larry Adams is a Chicago-based writer and editor who writes about how things get done. A former wire service and community newspaper reporter, Larry is an award-winning writer with more than three decades of experience. In addition to writing about woodworking, he has covered science, metrology, metalworking, industrial design, quality control, imaging, Swiss and micromanufacturing . He was previously a Tabbie Award winner for his coverage of nano-based coatings technology for the automotive industry. Larry volunteers for the historic preservation group, the Kalo Foundation/Ianelli Studios, and the science-based group, Chicago Council on Science and Technology (C2ST).