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Celebration & Dedication on July 4, 2017

Construction was completed on November 11, 2016

On November 11, 2016 the rebuilt footbridge was opened to the public and on July 4th 2017 Wanakena held a dedication ceremony and celebration with over 400 people participating. On this date a new kiosk depicting the footbridge history, including the many creative ways that the WHA raised the matching funds needed to rebuild. The kiosk also list the over 450 individual donors/families that contributed cash gifts to rebuild.

On January 13, 2014 the one hundred twelve year old suspension bridge in Wanakena was heavily damaged by an ice jam. Together with the Town of Fine, the WHA is raising funds to rebuild this bridge. The campaign slogan: Revive, Rebuild, Recover was chosen to convey that the Wanakena footbridge is an icon of the Western Adirondacks and is cherished not only by the residents of Wanakena, but also by the many families who have lived here, visitors, hikers and especially Ranger School students who have passed through this tiny hamlet. Consider helping our community recover by DONATING to the fund that is designated to rebuild the Wanakena footbridge. Enjoy the video and pictures of the bridge below.

This bridge was an absolute gem - a wonderful piece of vernacular American engineering, a connection to the fascinating history of the settlement, an important pedestrian transportation link in the community, and a structure so beloved and so well taken care of. It is a horrible loss. -- Steven Engelhart, Executive Director AARCH

March 14, 2015 - Click on line below to open PDF of the most recent facts about the reconstruction project


Update from Sue Westbrook, Chair of grant writing and Town of Fine Council Woman.

To date the grass roots effort to raise money to rebuild the bridge is over $78,000. Individual donations, lemonade sales, organization donations, Bossie Bingo, Bridge Day and other events added to the total.

AUGUST 15 2015 - BRIDGE DAY 2015, put it on your calendar!


The Wanakena footbridge was built c. 1902, when the Adirondack wilderness town of Wanakena was founded by the Rich Lumber Company. This suspension bridge was constructed to join the residential and commercial areas on the north side of the Oswegatchie River, with the mill and logging complex on the south shore. This allowed Rich Lumber’s workers to cross from the village to the mills, without having to use the railroad trestle situated west of the footbridge. The bridge spans 171 feet across the Oswegatchie River, where the water level is still controlled by the dam located at the far northern end of Cranberry Lake.

In 1983 a major fund raising effort was employed to repair the rotting wooden planks and towers of the footbridge. The original steel cables used in 1902 were re-used and still supported the bridge through 2013.

One of the longest pedestrian suspension bridges still extant in the United States, the Wanakena Footbridge is an architectural gem and a centerpiece of life for residents and visitors to this gateway village, on the northern edge of the Adirondack Park’s Five Ponds Wilderness Area.

In 1999, more than 500 people wrote letters to support the nomination of the Wanakena Footbridge to the National Register of Historic Places, recounting stories of and memories associated with the bridge. The bridge was selected later that year by the U.S. Department of Interior to be placed on the National Register, and a big celebration was held in recognition of this honor. The Wanakena Historical Association was formed in 2000 to preserve the history of the bridge as well as that of Wanakena.Periodic maintenance, including painting has been completed by resident volunteers and especially Ranger School students.

Today the old bridge is considered an icon and landmark of the area. Locals and summer visitors alike savor a walk on the swinging bridge night or day; numerous weddings have been held on it; kids ride bikes and fish from it; even the deer use it to cross the river. It is a popular subject for photography in all seasons.

On January 13, 2014, an unusually early thaw after heavy snow falls and weeks of sub-zero weather caused a massive ice jam on the Oswegatchie River. Several Wanakena homes were flooded, and the North tower of the footbridge was destroyed. The 112 year old steel cables were not severed, but the bridge lay broken across the ice flow. The night of January 13 was like a wake in Wanakena, with people standing on shore teary eyed seeing the damaged bridge lying in the icy river with Christmas lights still shining brightly. Comprehensive efforts are now underway by residents, friends of the bridge, and professional engineers to rebuild, recover, and hopefully to avoid a recurrence of this local catastrophe.

This video created by Kristin Rehder, seasonal resident of Wanakena. Ms Rehder is an accomplished photographer, who in 2012 created an exhibition called, "The Way to Wanakena" which has been shown at several locations on the East Coast, as well as at the 100th anniversay celebration of the New York State Ranger School at Wanakena.

Request For Letters to Support Rebuilding the Wanakena Footbridge 

2nd request for letters of support, due May 24th, 2014:

We would like to extend our heartfelt thank you to those of you who wrote letters of support and will continue to use them in future grants – you don’t need to write again. For those of you who missed the first deadline, we are once again asking for letters or statements supporting the rebuilding of the Wanakena Footbridge. Please select one of the two methods of responding, it is not necessary to use both, either e-mail to or mail to Hope Dolan, Town of Fine Clerk, Wanakena Footbridge, 4078 St Hwy 3, Star Lake, NY 13690, no later than May 24th.

UPDATE April 17, 2014

With the arrival of warm weather on April 12, folks in Wanakena began reporting that the Oswegatchie River was finally beginning to melt and open up. Over the next few days it seemed like the bridge just might avoid being hit by another huge ice jam, and it did. But, with the huge snowfall melting, lots of sunshine and two days of rain the river level rose quickly to envelop the span that had been laying on the ice since January 13. The extra strain did take down what was left of the tower on the North shore. Again our bridge struggled to hold its own against the rising torrential currents. Later on April 16, the rising water began picking up debris from the shoreline and this started hitting the submerged walkway. As of this moment on April 18, the cables are still holding and the tower on the South shore is still standing. To see recent photos of the ice metlting and water rising, visit our FaceBook Site .

During a teleconference on April 18, it was determined that now that the ice has gone out, Crawford & Stearns will move forward with setting a date for the heavy bridge contractor to come to the site to determine the best course of action.

THANK-YOU, THANK-YOU to all who wrote letters of support that became part of the recent application to request a grant from the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency. The statistics are quite impressive: We received 98 letters, 8 from government officials or groups, 48 were from residents of Wanakena (either year round or seasonal) and 42 were from others. There were letters from 9 different states including NY, PA, VT, TX, WI, MI, MD, CO and MA. And there were two letters from other countries, Sweden and France.

The grant application to the St. Lawrence River Valley Redevelopment Agency (SLRVRA), which these letters were a part of, is currently being reviewed. The committee will make their awards by the end of April. The letters will be used in other grant applications as well.

UPDATE March 26, 2014

Some REALLY good news we have ALL been so anxiously awaiting!!!

I know everyone here has been looking for news...and this is a GREAT piece of VERY GOOD news.......

Community Foundation Approves Grants in St. Lawrence County

The Northern New York Community Foundation Board of Directors today grants benefiting four St. Lawrence county organizations, including $10,000 to the Wanakena Hisorical Association to help restore/rebuild the footbridge. “These latest investments in this part of the Community Foundation’s service area affirm our commitment to enhancing the quality of life in all three of the counties we are charged to serve,” said Rande S. Richardson, Foundation executive director.

The Community Foundation raises, manages, and administers an endowment and collection of funds for the benefit of the residents of Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties. The Foundation has been built and added to from gifts (both while living and through their legacy plans) by individuals and organizations committed to meeting the changing needs of Northern New York. The grants that were approved:

Wanakena Historical Association - $10,000, To support the Wanakena Footbridge restoration/rebuilding campaign.​

Norwood Village Green Concert Series - $5,000, to purchase of new lighting infrastructure for their concert venue.

Canton Golden Bear Packs Program - $2,000, sustainability support for Canton Central School’s food and nutrition backpack program for the 2014-15 school year.

St. Lawrence County Arts Council - $2,000, to support for the Potsdam Plein Arts Festival.

A huge thank you to all those who have worked so diligently on preparing and submitting the papers needed to help raise more of the funding needed to bring our Bridge back!!

UPDATE February 26, 2014

On February 24, 2014 Town Supervisor Mark Hall held a meeting of the sub-committee heads to discuss current information in planning the rebuilding of the Wanakena footbridge. The following people are heading committees with different responsibilities:

Chairman of Overall Committee & Media Relations: Mark Hall

Donations & Fund Raising: Allen Ditch & Marsha Smith (Wanakena Historical Association)

Grant Identification & Writing: Susan Westbrook

Salvage, Design & Construction: Thomas Sauter

Regulatory Affairs: Sherman Craig


The contracted architectural firm, Crawford & Stearns cannot provide an accurate estimate on the costs to rebuild the bridge until it is off of the ice. Donations currently total over $6800. Discussions with St. Lawrence County Dept. of Roads continue related to salvage operations prior to melting of river ice.

Donations & Fund Raising: Although a formal campaign to raise funds cannot begin until there is an estimate of costs to rebuild the footbridge, generous donations continue to be received by the WHA through four venues: (1) PayPal / the WHA website; (2) Checks mailed to the WHA; (3) Sales of candy bars donated by The C Shop in Birch Bay Washington and (4) Via donation jars located in local businesses. To date, $6,884 has been collected. Initial anticipated costs include visits and reports by the architectural firm, salvage costs and fees for grant applications.

Historical Status: The NYS St. Lawrence County Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Places (OPRHP) has indicated that a ruling on historical status cannot be made until there are more details about the repairs/rebuilding. After there is a plan, Crawford & Stearns could discuss and negotiate historic status with the OPRHP.

Salvage, Design & Construction: An estimate received from a contractor for salvaging the bridge frozen in the ice was determined to be extremely excessive. It was noted that any salvage operation could result in additional damage to the South Tower of the footbridge. The committee agreed to pursue other possible options with St. Lawrence County Dept of Roads. Specific machinery and materials needed for salvage were discussed and will be conveyed to St. Lawrence County. If the bridge cannot be raised before the ice melts, we will have to wait and hope for a slow melt of the river ice. It is likely that another ice jam would result in additional damage to bridge parts that might have been salvaged, but the cost of salvage operations using a contractor is not cost-effective. It was conveyed that the bridge cables (original to 1902 construction), are set in buried concrete, and should survive a damaging ice-out.

Grant Identification: Advice was received on assessing grant options to ensure that we do not get into a situation where requirements for reporting progress & spending might be overwhelming. Several organizations were discussed for furtherer assessment to apply for a grant, including: ANCA, IDA (St Lawrence River Valley Authority), and CFA. Some of the organizations already contacted are very interested in historic status. There often is a fee associated with applying for different grants. All volunteers will be asked to keep track of the amount of time dedicated to this project, as these donated hours can be used as matching funds for grants.

Regulatory: It has been confirmed that the Wanakena footbridge is not considered in the river corridor, which has stricter regulatory requirements. Which regulations apply to the reconstruction process will not be fully known until more details are identified about the reconstruction process. Committee members have already talked with APA, DEC and the Corps of Engineers.

Communication: Mark Hall agreed that the committee should strive to release updated communiqués on progress and issues at least monthly.

January 20, 2014

6:00 PM Ranger School, Wanakena

Supervisor Mark Hall gave everyone in attendance a brief background of what is going on. All intentions are to rebuild the bridge. The town will move forward with that intention, but it was not insured and the Town of Fine General Fund cannot pay to replace the bridge. It is going to take donations from the community, fundraising and grants to move this project forward.

Supervisor Hall asked that people not feed into rumors that they hear; it wastes energy that will be needed. The town will keep people up to date with any news on the Town of Fine website, Town of Fine Facebook page, the Clifton-Fine Community Development Facebook page and through notices posted on the Wanakena bulletin board. Supervisor Hall has come up with various people to serve as heads of various committees to move the project forward. He informed everyone present that committees can meet and discuss things, but they cannot act on behalf of the town board. Only the town board can enter into contracts, sign grant applications, etc. The committees will be a valuable tool to help the town board, but will not act as the town board.

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