Uncertain future for Oka-Hudson ice bridge

The bridge hasn't opened yet this year and it's unclear if it will at all.

Bridge was closed for 3 of past 10 years

The ice isn't thick enough to open the Oka-Hudson ice bridge right now, and there are no guarantees the bridge will open at all this year. (Facebook/Traverse Oka-Hudson)

For decades, an ice bridge has linked Oka and Hudson, boosting winter tourism in both communities.

But the future of that natural bridge — and of several others in the province — is threatened as winters get warmer and the ice over rivers, thinner.

The Oka-Hudson ice bridge hasn't opened yet this year and it's unclear if it will at all. 

"In the main channel of the river where the current is strongest, there are only six and a quarter inches [of ice]," said Claude Desjardins, who owns the bridge. 

"It takes 15."

In the past 10 years, the bridge couldn't be opened in 2012, 2016 and 2017. Last year, it was only open for 22 days. 

"We definitely see a change. Thaws are more frequent; there are periods of rain," Desjardins said.

Environment Canada meteorologist Alexandre Parent says people can expect more conditions that will make maintaining ice bridges difficult in Quebec. 

'Too dangerous' for an ice bridge on the Richelieu

Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu and Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu in the Montérégie region used to be joined by an ice bridge in the winters, but recently put an end to the tradition. 

The entrepreneur who used to manage the bridge noticed some of the currents wouldn't freeze over properly and that the overall quality of the ice was deteriorating, according to Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu Mayor Ginette Thibault. 

"Since last year, the entrepreneur didn't want to do it anymore. He found it way too dangerous," Thibault said. 

As for the Oka-Hudson bridge, Oka Mayor Pascal Quévillon hopes the two municipalities west of Montreal will find other ways to stay connected in the winter. In the summer, a ferry takes people across the Ottawa River.

On top of making life easier for drivers in the winter, he says the bridge helps the local economy. 

"We're a recreational tourism destination, with the national park and the Oka Abbey," Quévillon said. "So, when the bridge opens, we definitely see a difference in the number of people in town. It's good for businesses."

Based on the reporting of Radio-Canada's Marie-Eve Cousineau