VIDEO: KelownaNow and Then and the original Okanagan Lake Floating Bridge

Kent Molgat | June 11, 2018 in KelownaNow and Then

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It was one of the single most transformative events to ever take place in the Okanagan Valley. 

The construction of the original Okanagan Lake Floating Bridge set history on a new course.

The two lane 650 Metre long structure was the first of its kind in Canada. 

The official opening came on July 19th, 1958 with the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret there to cut the ribbon. 

Photo Credit: Kelowna Public Archives: KPA#17

The bridge provided a huge boost to the Okanagan, solidifying Kelowna as the central hub in the region, but local historian Sharron Simpson points out there were other forces at work that aren’t spoken about as much.

Photo Credit: Kelowna Public Archives KPA#1708

“Yes it was really significant for the valley, but there was a broader implication,” said Simpson. 

“The cold war was in full swing at that time.”

Photo Credit: Kelowna Public Archives KPA#9393

The new bridge would mean an uninterrupted highway for the American military to move personnel and equipment to and from Alaska. 

Originally the bridge was partially funded through tolls, which were in place for five years.  A vertical lift span would bring traffic to a stop to allow taller boats to pass.

Photo Credit: Old Kelowna Facebook

A third lane was added in 1984, and the bridge continued to serve until its replacement, the WR Bennet Bridge was opened in May of 2008.

Former MLA Cliff Serwa told KelownaNow it’s difficult to find any factor more important to Kelowna’s growth than the original bridge.  He sat down with us to help us get a better feel for just how much it changed our part of the province.

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