A historic crossing in Gold Country

A new book chronicles Ashcroft's the history of Spences Bridge

SPENCES BRIDGE: A HISTORIC RIVER CROSSING by Bill RiddleyThe community of Spences Bridge was first known as Cook’s Ferry, named after Mortimer Cook, an enterprising fellow that ran a raft type cable ferry across the Thompson River, enabling travellers on the old wagon road to cross and continue their journey up to Ashcroft. During construction of the Cariboo Wagon Road, former Royal engineer and road builder Thomas Spence won the contract to build a bridge across the river to replace the ferry. He had already contracted much of he road construction work from Emory Creek through to Boston Bar. The bridge was built in 1864. As the government of the day had run short of money during the Cariboo Wagon Road construction, it became custom to allow the contractor to charge a toll on his completed section of the road. Thus, the first bridge was known as Spence’s toll Bridge. Unfortunately, the bridge was built too low to the river and was washed away in the high waters of the spring run-off in 1894. The new bridge was built at the insistence, and by petition, of the local ranchers, on the footings of the original Spence’s Bridge. The pilings of the original bridge are still visible today. This second bridge was also washed away in 1928 but was repaired and lasted until it was replaced by the present steel bridge in 1932. The people of the area were so excited over the bridge that they eventually changed the name of the community from Cook’s Ferry to Spences Bridge, in honour of its builder. In the late summer and through the fall, the riverbanks are alive with sport fishermen from all over North America, after the elusive Steelhead and Salmon, when openings permit.