Although we didn’t have a specific destination in mind when we left Sparwood, exploring historic sites through the Crowsnest Pass was the plan for Day 29 of our RV trip – Thursday, May 24th.
While we did a lot of exploring, we only put 51 km on the motorhome, from Sparwood, BC, to a campground just east of Bellevue, Alberta. Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.
This Heritage BC Stop of Interest sign at the summit of Crowsnest Pass (1,358 meters/ 4,455 feet high) describes a bit of the pass’ early transportation history: Rivers born in Canada’s Rockies carved passes eastward to Hudson Bay or westward to the Pacific. This one was long used by Indians, but was not shown on maps until the Palliser Expedition of 1860, and then only from hearsay. Michael Phillipps blazed a trail in 1873. He was the first white man to cross the Canadian Rockies from west to east through an unexplored pass.
The terrain starts to change rapidly as you travel east from Crowsnest Summit and pass into the rain shadow of the Rockies. This is the view back to the west from the summit.
My first goal of the day was actually to find some water to cool Bella off – she’s so uncomfortable in this warm weather (the weather was forecast to be 28°C/82°F again). A few lakes shown on the maps offered possibilities, and I had vague memories of Island Lake, just across the Alberta border, offering good possibilities – Highway 3 goes across the middle of the lake. Island Lake Provincial Recreation Area proved to be perfect, and we had a good long play in the very chilly lake.
Island Lake may also be a camping place on our next trip through the Crowsnest – the Recreation Area campground has 41 unserviced sites along what feels like an old airstrip, for $18 per night.
Just after 1:00, we stopped at a huge pullout for lunch. Across Crowsnest Lake, we could see the Summit Lime Works. A group of Italians had been making lime with a pair of beehive kilns here, but in 1903 Dr. E. Hazelle bought them out, formed Summit Lime Works, and moved the plant west to a location where the Canadian Pacific Railway could build a spur line. Now owned by Graymont, the company is still shipping high-calcium lime and limestone now, 115 years later.
We stopped at the Travel Alberta Crowsnest Pass Visitor Information Centre to get more detailed information about the options were for the next couple of days, and Janet Martin, who once worked in Dawson City, was extremely helpful. The Centre is very RV-friendly and even has a picnic table.
This was the view back to the west as we returned to Highway 3 from the visitor centre.
We had a good long visit to the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre during our drive through the Crowsnest Pass two years ago, so didn’t repeat that this time. The Frank Slide, though, is still a dominant feature of the valley for many miles, 115 years after the tragic event. The sign seen in the next photo is at a pullout along the highway.
The historic Bellevue Coal Mine is very visible from the highway, and every times I go by, I tell myself that I need to do their underground tour. This was the year, and it was #1 on my list of things to see and do in the Crowsnest. Having worked underground at Granduc Copper for a few months in 1975, I never pass up an opportunity to go back into the darkness.
There’s no date on this large photo of the Bellevue Mine hanging in the office, but it appears to be from about 1910-1915. The town of Bellevue was founded in 1905 on the flat land above the mine, which was operated by the West Canadian Collieries (WCC). None of the structures in the photo seem to have survived.
I bought tickets for a tour which would start in 15 minutes, for $35 for the 2 of us. A staff member brought a wheelchair out to the motorhome to make the underground tour much easier for Cathy. Properly kitted out with hardhats and miners’ lights, we were soon at the adit – the concrete face dates to 1928. We had also put on warm clothes – the temperature underground is from 0 to plus 2 degrees C year-round.
Our underground guide, Mel, did a great job of explaining the mine – the technical sides of getting coal out of this particular mine, and also the personal stories of what it was like to work here.
This section of the mine is quite disorienting, with none of the timbers being vertical. There’s a fair bit of water running in this section of the mine, and Mel said that in the winter, icicles would give a good vertical perspective.
There was no artificial light in the mine except the narrow beams from our miners’ lights. Here, coal came down a chute into the waiting coal cars, which were moved by men and horses.
Although these 2 miners had lots of headroom in the chute area, in much of the mine, the ceilings were very low. This was a dangerous occupation. Methane gas in particular could build up with tragic results – an explosion in the Bellevue Mine on December 9th, 1910, killed 30 of the 42 miners working, and one miner on the rescue team.
Near the end of our tour, the colours in this wet wall of seeping minerals were quite incredible. The miners working here would have, of course, wanted to see no colours other than coal black.
Back in the sunshine at 3:30, with the Frank Slide visible in the distance.
Having now visited two of Alberta’s three worse diasater sites, I wanted to visit the third, so the Hillcrest Cemetery and the Hillcrest Mine Disaster Memorial, less than 3 km away by road, was our next stop.
We began our visit at the Hillcrest Mine Disaster Memorial Park, a circle walk with about 20 interpretive panels describing the explosion that killed 189 miners on the morning of June 19, 1914.
This newspaper copied on one of the interpretive panels gives an idea of the scale of the tragedy. It remains the worst mine disaster in Canadian history, and at the time, it was the third worst in the world. Only 46 miners made it out of the mine alive on that awful day.
We spent a long time in the memorial park, reading each panel and trying to absorb it all, and trying to imagine what the impacts must have been. The impacts on the families, the community, the region, and on the entire mining industry.
This photo on one of the panels shows the largest of the mass graves for victims being dug.
Looking from the fairly small parking lot up to the main memorial, with the Frank Slide towering behind.
The black marble memorial at the center of a circle with benches around it – a fine place of contemplation and to pay respects. The names of each man is listed, and perhaps an explanation for the mass graves (though not all victims were buried in Hillcrest, and some have seperate graves): “As they had worked, so they were laid, shoulder to shoulder in common graves.”
Around the Hillcrest memorial, 17 black marble tablets list Canada’s worst coal mining disasters (killing 3 or more men) between 1873 and 1992.
Most of the Hillcrest Cemetery, which is still in use, looks like any other cemetery, with a lovely mountain background.
This is the largest of the mass graves for the mine victims. It’s located near the back of the cemetery. Around it is a steel fence, and there are several more interpretive panels.
Many of the mine disaster victims have no grave marker, but a brass plaque for each man is on the fence, whether there is a marker or not. Only one body was never found in the Hillcrest Mine, but Sidney Bainbridge is also remembered here.
On these panels overlooking the largest mass grave are brass plaques for victims buried elsewhere in the Hillcrest Cemetery, or in other places, as well as a cemetery map. To me, this was the most powerful location, but perhaps that was at least partly because of the light. For anyone interested in Canadian history, or mining history, I highly recommend a visit to this memorial site – it’s exceptionally well done.
As well as all the other individual traumas, over 60 women were widowed and some 400 children lost their fathers. And yet within a few months, even greater tragedies in World War I had made people forget.
From here, our Crowsnest Pass visit would focus less on history and more on beauty (though history is inescapable in the Crowsnest).
I had initially planned on only spending one night at Sparwood, but soon realized that there’s a lot to see in the area. First thing in the morning of Day 28 of our RV trip – Wednesday, May 23rd – I added another night to our Mountain Shadows Campground stay.
Much of what people see when researching Sparwood easily leads to the thought that once you see “The Big Truck”, you might as well move on. But I’d seen enough on my wanders 2 years before to know that wasn’t true.
Like most people, I began my Sparwood visit at The World’s Biggest Mining Truck, located beside the visitor centre. The truck is a Terex 33-19 “Titan”, and pretty much every number on the specification sheet is very impressive. It is, however, not actually the biggest mining truck in the world – that title was taken away by the Belaz 75710. The Titan, though, is 65 feet 11 inches long, 24 feet 10 inches wide, and 22 feet 7 inches high with the dump box lowered. Empty, it weighs 520,400 pounds, and it can carry 700,000 pounds of rock or coal at up to 30 mph. It’s diesel engine produces 3,300 horsepower and burns 70 gallons of fuel per hour, and the rear wheels are driven by 4 electric motors that consume enough electricity to power 3,200 homes.
I climbed up to the highway to shoot the photo above, but the Titan is most impressive when you’re standing beside it. Actually, I’m willing to bet that it was even more impressive from the driver’s seat! 🙂
The Big Truck is fun, but beside it is another side of mining – the Miners Memorial, which is “dedicated to those who have lost their lives mining coal.” It currently lists the names of 181 miners killed in the coal fields of the upper Elk River valley between 1901 and 2014.
Some particularly tragic dates stand out on the list of names memorialized on the black granite:
January 8, 1904 – 7 men killed
August 8, 1916 – 12 men killed
April 3, 1967 – 15 men killed
The next thing on my list was the Mining Equipment Walk. There are pieces of mining equipment with interpretive panels located all over downtown Sparwood. I asked at the visitor centre if there was a guide to them, and was told that they’re working on it. They’re not working very hard – the displays were set up quite a few years ago judging by the condition of the panels, and I could create a map of them in about 15 minutes, and a brochure in a couple of hours. For anyone with an intererst in mining, though, it’s worth a wander to find some of them – the displays and interpretation were very well done.
While looking for mining equipment, I discovered that there are also a fair number of murals around town, some very large, some in rather obscure locations. Most of the murals, though not all, relate to the community’s mining heritage.
I also found a mining park located downtown. It’s quite elaborate, mostly concrete, and partly below ground level. There’s a large fountain, but the water hadn’t been turned on for the season yet (I assume). With the fountain flowing and some people around, it seems that it could be quite a vibrant place.
Leaving Sparwood. Well, leaving downtown Sparwood, and heading for the walking trails that are accessed at the campground. There’s a large network of trails around town, and main one that runs by the campground is part of the Trans Canada Trail.
I had gone into town by myself, but picked up Bella and Tucker for the trail walk, of course. I picked the east-bound Elk Valley Coal Discovery Trail, the one that’s part of the Trans Canada Trail.
The trails provide very pleasant walking through the mixed forest. There are a couple of places where the trail splits for some reason, but they soon join up again.
The east-bound trail goes along the boundary of the Sparwood Golf Course. There are a few signs warning about a high-voltage fence between the trail and the greens, but the fence has obviously not been powered in quite a few years. It looks like a nice golf course – I only saw a couple of men making their rounds with golf carts.
The trail – or at least the forested trail – ends at the golf course access road. As you can see in the next photo, all roads in Sparwood lead to The Big Truck 🙂
Getting back to the campground and picking up Cathy, we headed to another coal mining town, Elkford, located 34 km north up the Elk River valley. A loop around town didn’t provide any inspiration, so we headed up into the coal fields. A viewpoint provided this look back at the town and its ski hill.
I’d love to see the coal mining area from the air, but a couple of queries in Sparwood provided no information about any company offering that. It’s clear that these coal fields make the Klondike gold fields look like a child’s sand box, though. In the next photo, the upper part of a mountain has been removed (one of many summits removed). In the foreground, a logging clearcut.
This was the largest coal mine we saw, though I didn’t get a photo of the roadside/railside part of the operation, as it’s an industrial road and not tourist-browsing friendly. This is Teck’s Greenhills operation, which produces metallurgical coal – it’s also called coking or steelmaking coal, as it’s used to make steel.
The main road goes on for at least 60 km and the back roads for hundreds of km. We quit at this railroad crossing, though, and started back towards Highway 3.
Back at the highway just after 3:30, we decided to backtrack west and see the historic downtown of Fernie. Once in Fernie, a stop at one of the leash-free parks seemed like a good idea, but it was so warm that neither Tucker nor Bella wanted to play.
We looped around the downtown a couple of times, but it was too warm to leave the dogs in the car, and walking 2 dogs on a downtown sidewalk is not my idea of a good time. I found a shady spot of a back street and got a few photos that will encourage me to get back for a proper visit.
From what I saw of the historic downtown on this short visit, I’m amazed that I’ve never made the short detour off the highway before. There are plenty of historic buildings, and several of the coffee shops and cafes have “street patios,” a couple of which wold have been perfect on this gorgeous day.
Now happy that I had a much better of what the Sparwood area has to offer, we’d head into the Crowsnest Pass, one of my priorities for this trip, the next day.
The main objective for Day 27 of our RV trip – Tuesday, May 22nd – was the Canadian Museum of Rail Travel in Cranbrook, which was closed when we were there 2 years ago. Then we’d move on to Sparwood, the first of the Crownest Pass coal mining towns that I wanted to see much more of.
I usually only show the main mileage that I drive in the motorhome, but the 145-km route shown on the map this time includes the Cranbrook side trip which we drove in the Tracker. Click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.
We began the day with a leisurely bacon-and-eggs breakfast that included the wonderful whole grain sourdough bread baked at Fort Steele.
We had again been very pleased with our stay at the Fort Steele Resort & RV Park, and two nights was much better than the one night of our previous visit. It’s simply the best location for a relaxed Fort Steele history experience, especially when you have dogs.
We decided to move the motorhome over to the huge parking lot at the Heritage Town, and take the Tracker into Cranbrook. That turned out to be a very good choice, as parking is very limited at the Cranbrook History Centre, which includes the train museum. We arrived at 12:30.
We opted to take a guided tour of the stars of the museum, the 7 cars of Canadian Pacific Railway’s Trans Canada Limited. The cost for the two of us was $35.70 including taxes.
Cathy and I were the only people on the tour, which made dealing with Cathy’s crutches easier. Some major construction is going on – the start of a roof over all of the rail cars. Many of the other cars weren’t accessible because of the construction.
The Trans Canada Limited was a First-Class-only train built in 1929, and this was the Golden Age of rail travel in Canada. The restored cars are gorgeous – the next photo shows the Solarium Lounge car. I was very quickly glad that I’d brought my super-wide 10mm lens so I could get the entire cars and rooms in the photos.
A sleeper compartment, with the upper berth closed, and the window shades closed.
The sinks in the passenger compartments are interesting, with levers for hot and cold water, waste (the drain), and a special lever for special filtered water for “dental” use.
Our guide has been with the museum for many years, moving from volunteer to head guide, and was extremely good. I’ve unfortunately forgotten his name, but I wish that his talk was available in print.
A day car. The quality of the restoration, from the woodwork to the reproduced textiles, is superb, and the cost must be huge.
This panel shows the day car’s interior as it looked in 1948 (which is how it was received), with several layers of paint over the original inlaid Honduran mahogany.
The 1948 decor of the day car on the left, and the original 1929 decor on the right. It seems quite incredible now that the painting and other changes were done, but it was all in the name of cutting costs – the original woodwork and textiles were simply too expensive to maintain properly.
The guide said that the dining car is the favourite car for most people. It’s so beautiful that it’s quite shocking – the photos don’t do it justice. What a wonderful place to enjoy high quality meals for 3 days while Canada passed by outside.
Several original Trans Canada Limited dining car place settings have been found, but the museum is still searching for many more. The china is the Blue Maple Leaf design, produced for Canadian Pacific Railway in England by Ridgeway. Each piece of glassware is etched with the CPR logo, and the silverware was quadruple Elkington plated.
The final car in the consist is this observation car, 90 feet long. It would originally have had 30 arm chairs in it, but only five have been reproduced so far. One chair has been left uncovered so visitors can see the quality of the construction.
Back in the museum building, one room has displays of the restoration processes of the woodwork in particular. Some of the cars were in such poor condition, it’s hard to believe that they’ve been restored (or are being restored – there’s a great deal of work to do yet).
The Royal Alexandra Hall can be rented for special events. It was built from pieces saved from the Grand Cafe in Winnipeg’s Royal Alexandra Hotel when the hotel was demolished in 1971.
This was going to be a rather short visit, but we wanted to see the model train layouts. On the way to that room, we passed a large Cranbrook history quilt, and stopped for a look. Up at the top in the small section seen in the next photo is a little airplane.
That little plane is the Yukon’s DC-3, CF-CPY, often called The World’s Largest Weather Vane. While I don’t know why CPY is on the quilt, it’s entirely possible that she served Cranbrook at some point – the index to the quilt simply says “Canadian Pacific Airlines, 1947”.
There are two model train layouts – Canadian Pacific’s Southern Mainland section is modelled in HO gauge, and the Fraser and Kettle Valleys are modelled in O gauge. The O-gauge layout, 65 feet long, was donated by the Granville Island Museum in Vancouver when it closed in 2008.
We only spent an hour and a half at the Cranbrook History Centre. It needs much more, but we’ll be back, probably in another 2 years.
Back at Fort Steele, we were in no hurry to leave, especially when the Clydesdales were moved onto the pasture beside the parking lot. At about 3:30, though, I hooked up the Tracker and we headed east, but starting off on the slow, winding Wardner – Fort Steele Road rather than the highway.
A little over an hour after leaving Fort Steele, we pulled in to the Mountain Shadows Campground in Sparwood. Full services and good wifi in huge forested sites, with great walking trails, and walking distance to downtown, for $37.50 per night.
We were soon set up in site #1, and had a wonderful evening, enjoying a bit of Okanagan wine around a campfire. By the end of the evening, I had decided that exploring the Sparwood area required a 2-night stay here.
More and more, we find that the slower we move and the more flexible we are, the better the trip is. But the reality is that there’s never enough time. At about 11:00 on Day 25 of the trip – Sunday, May 20th – we began the 228-km drive to Fort Steele.
Google says that it’s a 3 hour, 41 minute trip because of winding roads and a ferry crossing – and that ferry crossing has had some very long lineups to the highway closures in recent days. As always, click on the map to open an interactive version in a new window.
When we arrived at the Balfour ferry terminal, we were amazed to find the ferry loading, with nobody waiting. We were waved right onto the ferry, the M.V. Osprey 2000. The ferry is free, and at 35 minutes to cross Kootenay Lake, this is apparently the longest free ferry ride in the world.
Looking back at Balfour at 11:39, with the ferry about 2/3 full. The capacity of the M.V. Osprey 2000 is 80 vehicles and 250 passengers. It was a perfect day for this crossing.
On a day like this (the temperature was already about 22°C/72°F), the large open viewing decks are wonderful. The small cafe downstairs was doing a good business.
Highway 3A down the east side of Kootenay Lake is hilly and winding – very scenic, and not a road you either can or want to make time on. We made a short stop in Cranbrook for a Dairy Queen treat (the fur-kids all love it when Cathy and I share our Peanut Buster Parfaits with them 🙂 ), and to get Cathy a pair of crutches – the knee she injured a few months ago is getting very bad.
At 3:45, we were on the ramp onto Highway 95, just 6 km from Fort Steele.
The Kootenay River is at the bottom of this hill, and Fort Steele is on the opposite shore. The dominant peak is Mount Fisher, 2,846 meters high (9,336 feet).
By 4:30, we were set up at the Fort Steele Resort & RV Park, where I’d made reservations for 2 nights. This is where we stayed 2 years ago, and we really like it. We got shaded, full-service site #100, for $84 including taxes. There are over 120 full service sites, almost all pull-throughs.
Tucker and Bella happily settled into the cool, soft grass. It had been a long day for them. This campground has great options for dog-walking – that evening, we walked a mile or so to the historic Fort Steele Cemetery.
We began Monday by driving the Tracker up to the Fort Steele Cemetery. I’d had a good look through it on my previous visit, so didn’t go in this time. Findagrave reports 221 graves here, over 80% of them with markers.
The huge difference in this visit was the weather. Two years ago we only got hints through the rain and low clouds that we were surrounded by mountains. Visitors enter the park through the building seen in the next photo – it has a cafe, gift shop, and washrooms. We had to borrow a wheelchair to get Cathy around the town, so went in very few buildings this time.
With the mountains visible, even the distant ones to the northwest, the scenes I shot in 2016 were quite different this year. The next photo shows the North West Mounted Police (NWMP) compound and the water tower.
The school bus and government building. A school program was in progress, with all the kids in period costume.
I don’t know how many different items have been reproduced to stock the Carlin & Durick General Store, but it’s a lot.
This Stop of Interest sign describes the start of Fort Steels, as Galbraith’s Ferry: “This was the focal point in the mid-1860’s for thousands of miners en route to rich placer ground on Wildhorse Creek. They came over the long Dewdney Trail across British Columbia, and north on the trails from Washington and Montana. The North West Mounted Police established Fort Steele here in 1887.” This is a new version of the sign, which two years ago said that “Indian trouble” brought the police here.
We decided to join the free guided Gossip Tour, described this way: “A wildly popular tongue-in-cheek walking tour of the town introduces you to Fort Steele’s colourful residents, helps you peek behind doors, and shows you all their foibles. It’s true, the line between historical and hysterical is sometimes blurred but you can count on a member of the Fort Steele Ladies Auxiliary to give you the goods, and the dirt, with a little ‘creative license’ of course!”
The guide was immediately excellent, and never lost that – going on it was the right decision.
After the 45-minute tour, we headed for the City Bakery, on the left in the next photo, for a coffee break.
The Kootenay Roasting Company coffee was excellent, as were the large cinnamon buns that were irresistible. We also got a loaf a fresh-from-the-oven whole grain sourdough bread to take with us. One of the bakers invited me into the back to get photos of the process – she was just about to pull the last batch of bread for the day out of the wood-fired brick oven. The bakery is a year-round operation, and their bread and other creations can be bought in several Cranbrook stores.
The last time we were at Fort Steele, the tinsmith shop was open. Cathy’s Dad and his family were tinsmiths going back several generations, so this was a must-see. The shop had a decent display of the sort of articles a tinsmith might make, but could be greatly expanded.
The shoolhouse, built in 1898, looks so much better with Mt. Fisher in view. Our guide had some good gossip about the first teacher in this building (this was Fort Steele’s second school), Miss Adelaide Bailey – her 80-90 students didn’t mess with her. At least they didn’t mess with her twice! 🙂
The Perry Creek water wheel was built in 1934 for a gold mine about 25 miles west of Fort Steele, and was brought here in 1965. It’s 32 feet in diameter and 7 feet wide, and could produce up to 68 horsepower to drive two pumps to remove water from the mine, where the gold-bearing gravels were 150 feet below the surface.
With the temperature up around 26°C (79°F) at 2:00 pm, shade was a valuable commodity – even the chickens were in hiding.
Back at the RV park, we lazed around in the sade for a while, then decided to see if we could find some water for Bella to play in to cool off. A couple of lakes along the Wardner – Fort Steele Road looked like possibilities, so we headed east.
Norbury Lake Park was much too busy and the lake was too far for Cathy to walk, but we found a quiet spot on the Bull River that was perfect. A side stream offered good stick-chasing opportunities that both Bella and Tucker enjoyed.
Continuing along the Wardner – Fort Steele Road, this was one of the views over the Kootenay River.
We decided to see what te community of Wardner looks like. There are no stores anymore, but there’s a community hall among the homes, most of them built overlooking the river. This Stop of Interest sign talks about Wardner’s Crows Nest Pass Lumber Company, the largets mill in the area, which closed in the 1930s.
The picnic area at tiny (4 hectare) Wardner Provincial Park is lovely, but we didn’t linger.
We were back at the motorhome by about 5:30. The plan for the next day was the see the train museum in Cranbrook, then make the short drive to Sparwood.
At about 11:00 on Day 23 of our RV trip – Friday, May 18th – we left Nakusp Hot Springs and headed southeast towards the historic community of Kaslo. We had no plans for an overnight stop – it would just be wherever looked appropriate.
At Nakusp, we stopped at the municipal campground and paid $5 to dump our tanks at the sani-dump. The fellow in charge spent 8 summers and 2 winters in the Yukon, and said that he loved the Yukon, and the Kootenays was the most similar place he could find without the lng winters. He also told us that a couple of ig events in Kaslo could make finding a place to stay tough.
We ended up driving 123 km in the RV this day, to an RV park 17 km past Kaslo. I haven’t shown you a map for a while, so here’s this day’s route – as always, click on it to open an interactive version in a new window. I’m still tracking with inReach, and our entire route with very detailed maps (except for the occasional gap when I forget to turn it on) can be seen at
At 1:15, we stopped for a snack at a pullout among the high mountains along Highway 31A between New Denver and Kaslo. There are very few pullouts along the highways in the Kootenays unfortunately, as there were a few places I would have liked to stop, for views or old mines.
A huge network of beaver dams added a lot of interest to the view forward (to the east) at the pullout. We didn’t see any beaver, but there were a few geese and ducks.
Behind us, there was another old mine on the opposite side of the narrow valley. Between mines, railroad grades and wagon trails, I could spend a lot of time along this road, and we’re already talking about doing exactly that next year.
We decided to go into Kaslo for a quick look, and to talk to the people at the visitor centre about a possible overnight stay. We pretty much immediately knew that this would be a 2-night stay – Kaslo has a great feeling to it, and there are particularly fine heritage buildings everywhere.
I had made a sort visit to Kaslo in about 1970, but was surprised at how large the town is. The 2016 was only 968, with there were 555 private homes, so it looks like more, particularly when the number of people on the street is welled by special events.
The Canadian Pacific sternwheeler Moyie was really the only thing I remembered about Kaslo from almost 50 years ago. We’d return for a tour through it, but our visit to the visitor centre was short and productive – the Woodbury Resort & Marina south of town looked like a good spot for us.
By about 4:00, we were set up in pull-through site #108. It turned out to be one of the few overnight RV sites at Woodbury – most of the 100+ sites have RVs permanently in place for full-time or seasonal residents. The cost for 2 nights was $73.50 included taxes. The next photo shows the view out our front view, looking across Kootenay Lake
With a fairly well-used hummingbird feeder 3 feet from her favourite bed and window in the motorhome, Molly was well entertained for the duration of our stay at Woodbury 🙂
Our RV site was a bit tight, but with a view like that, we didn’t really care.
Despite being controlled by two dams and a 1938 international convention on acceptable levels, Kootenay Lake is very high, and the resort is bringing a lot of sand and gravel in to deal with it. As of this morning, a record high water level on the lake is expected to be reached within 10 days – with water 2.3 feet higher than it is currently, it could be ugly. The Kootenay Lake levels for the past 31 days can be seen here.
There are are lot of dogs at Woodbury – some aren’t very friendly, and some owners don’t bother picking up after theirs. We found a decent area to walk Bella and Tucker, though – this is looking back at the main part of the park from where we go.
On Saturday, we began our exploring of the Kaslo area at Fletcher Falls. I didn’t have high hopes for this to be very scenic, particularly when I saw Fletcher Creek coming out from a culvert under the highway, but I was soon proved wrong. T amount of spray becoming created and exploding out of the canyon was amazing – I had to clean the camera lens after every shot.
The trail leads to a viewing platform near the base of the falls. From here, the overhanging cliffs are almost as impressive as the waterfall.
Lit by shafts of sunlight, the spray from the waterfall also offered plenty of photo opportunities.
A bridge leads across Fletcher Creek to the waterfall viewing deck, and the day-use area of Fletcher Falls Recreation Area.
The very high water levels on Kootenay Lake have greatly reduced the size of the beach at Fletcher Falls Recreation Area, but the camping area is high and dry, and 3 groups were camped there.
From Fletcher Falls, we backtracked west on Highway 3A to see if we could reach Buchanan Lookout. It’s one of five retired forest fire lookout towers that were restored as recreation destinations for the BC Forest Service’s centennial anniversary in 2012. With lots of snow still visible on the peaks, it’s position at 1,912 metres (6,272 feet) on Mount Buchanan made reaching it unlikely, but the road would no doubt be interesting in any case.
The road is said to be suitable for high-clearance 2-wheel-drive vehicles, but having 4-wheel-drive is much better. The road does offer some great views.
Just past the 7-km marker on the 12-km road, we came to impassable snow. I walked up the road a bit, but the snow was too deep and soft to go far. There was a switchback with a large area to turn around just 100 meters back, so the location to have to turn back was good.
The view ahead on the way down. From this vantage point we could see that there are logging and mining roads everywhere – for a backroads explorer, this is pretty incredible country.
Near the bottom of the Buchanan Lookout road, I took Bella and Tucker for a long walk on what is signed as being the old Sandon-Kaslo Wagon Road, though I have my doubts abot the accuracy of that. It’s quite steep in places, and I found a section of a very old, overgrown road that has a much easier grade.
Back at Highway 3A, we turned west to continue exploring. This pullout at a section of the old Kaslo & Slocan Railroad (K&SRR) looked like it had possibilities, but as soon as I stopped, I saw that the trail was still deep in snow. An interpretive panel says that the railway only operated from 1895 until 1910 when fire wiped it out (a large forest fire, I assume).
While the K&SRR pullout didn’t offer any hiking, it did provide a great location for a family portrait. Well, a most-of-the-family portrait – I need to set up one with Molly included to get it right.
We went back to the RV park and dropped Bella and Tucker off, then returned to Kaslo for a pub late-lunch ast about 3:00 pm. Angry Hen Brewing gets great reviews and the location close to the steamboat Moyie was perfect for after-lunch plans. Angry Hen Brewing is a great example of businesses working together instead of fighting. They supply excellent beers in a very comfortable setting (we lucked into live music, too), and they welcome you to bring in some of the excellent food from neighbouring businesses (or from home, I suppose). Our burgers from BlueBelle Bistro next door were very good, and they delivered 🙂
Our final plan for the day was to go through the S.S. Moyie, the oldest intact passenger sternwheeler in the world. The S.S. Moyie National Historic Site is operated by the Kootenay Lake Historical Society, and admission is $12 for adults and $10 for seniors.
The Moyie was built in Nelson for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1898. She’s 161.7 feet long and 30.1 feet wide, and would normally carry 250 passengers, though 400 was her licenced capacity. She operated until 1957 – with lake traffic much reduced and a major overhaul due, keeping her in operation wasn’t economically viable.
This is the men’s smoking room, forward on the saloon deck. This was generally the noisiest place on the boat, with miners, prospectors, loggers, salesmen, and tourists drinking, playing card and just generally socializing.
We were quickly struck by how different the Moyie is than the surviving Yukon boats, the Klondike and Keno. Although very similar, the layout is different and the finishing is more fancy. This pantry is beside the dining saloon, between the men’s smoking room and the ladies’ saloon.
Included in the fancy detailing such as this emblem above the dining room was gold leaf stencilling – painters dusted powdered goldleaf onto linseed oil. During the restoration, these were discovered under layers of white paint.
The wheelhouse and forward loungs are always my favourite parts of any boat tour. What an experience it would have been to captain one of the magnificent boats, or even to sail on one in the early days.
The freight deck is particularly well set up, with a wide variety of stuff including vehicles – a car, a chicken-laden truck, and a horse-drawn fire ladder-truck. The Moyie really is a must-see if you get to Kaslo.
The 16-km drive from the RV park back to Kaslo is definitely not hard to take!
Although it was old cars and engines that took me back into Kaslo, I wasn’t nearly finished with old buildings, either. The City Hall, built in 1898, is a good example of what’s there.
Car shows used to be a very big part of my life. I go to the odd one in Whitehorse now, but never miss an opportunity to see what’s on the road in other communities.
There were some gorgeous cars in Kaslo, from restorations to mild and wild customs. This wild chopped and flamed Merc was one of my favourites.
For the hour plus that I was there, cars and light trucks of all vintages just kept coming. There were about 80 when I left just after 10:00.
On a side street, a few guys whose passion is old engines of all sizes were putting on a show.
Pre-heating the fuel to get a Weber fired up.
Derek Pollard recovered his first old engine from a Kootenays mountaintop over 40 years ago, and still loves working on them, even when they get cantankerous.
Some of the old engines are beautiful in their own way (especially some of the details), but when they get fired up, they’re really quite amazing.
At about 11:30 on Day 21 of our RV trip – Wednesday, May 16th – Cathy and I left New Denver and started the short 61-km drive to Nakusp Hot Springs, where I had made a campground reservation.
This is the first look visitors get of the Nakusp Hot Springs structure – a high rock wall with a narrow building behind it.
When I went in to register, it was for the one night that I had reserved. As soon as I looked out from the office to the pool area, though, I said “make that two nights”. It’s gorgeous! The RV sites, all with electricity, are only $17.50 per night plus GST off-season ($35.00 regularly). With 1 swim the day of arrival and a full day pass the next day, the pool passes were $15.00 for me and $19.05 for the youngster 🙂
The office area itself is very nice as well, with a small seating area, and drinks and ice cream treats available.
The next step was to drive back down to the campground to get set up. The RV area is very nice, with 32 reasonably spacious sites.
Each of the camp sites has a fire ring and picnic table. We were soon set up in #12, which is 40 feet long.
The campground attendant told us that there was 17 feet of snow here this past winter, and there is still lots around the edges of the roads and campground. Kuskanax Creek right below our site was roaring – from the looks of the vegetation and rocks along it, the creek has never been higher.
There are several drinking water taps around the RV campground, situated so it would be easy to fill the motorhome fresh-water tank if it was needed.
Time for a warm soak. The changing and shower rooms are spacious and spotlessly clean.
This is what prompted me to immediately change my booking from one to two nights – a pair of pools with beautiful mountain views. The hot springs here have a very high flow rate – some 200,000 litres of water enters the pools each day, untreated except for filtering.
We started off in the smaller of the pools, which has water at 106°F (41°C). We keep our hot tub at home set to 104F, so this is a temperature that we’re familiar with and enjoy. It’s not good for long soaks, though – there’s a sign saying to limit your soak to 5 minutes, but we were there for about 15-20 minutes before moving to the large pool which has water at 100°F (38.5°C). The sign says to limit your soak there to 20 minutes, but my first comment was that it was lukewarm and not even worth going into. We stayed there for about an hour each time, though. There is just a faint sulphurous smell to the water.
Hummingbirds add a touch of interest to the pool area thanks to two feeders hanging along the edge.
Nakusp Hot Springs has a long history, and I like the fact that the city runs it. The plaque seen in the next photo is hanging in the office area.
I had asked about a painting of a beautiful bridge, and was told that it was 5 minutes down a trail I hadn’t yet noticed. So that trail was next of my list of things to do. It’s signed as the Hot Springs Trail, leading 8.5 km to a road at the north edge of Nakusp.
The trail starts off as an old road – the road used to bring in the equipment to build the very impressive bridge, I expect. I tried to find the vantage point that the painting used, but wouldn’t go where it appeared to be without climbing ropes.
Steel beams support the wooden covering on the bridge, which has a pair of seating areas jutting out on each side, looking over Kuskanax Creek to the mountains.
The view straight down to raging Kuskanax Creek.
The other site noted on the trail sign that caught my interest was the Hot Springs Source, so I continued on for another 15 minutes past the bridge. The source of the hot water is obvious, but my mind wasn’t able to piece together the various concrete tanks and pools, and rock walls into the early hot springs development shown on the Nakusp Hot Springs’ history page.
This is the largest of the concrete pools, and it’s above the obvious hot water source, so there must be (or used to be) another outlet higher up.
At the upper end of the hot springs source clearing, a sign notes the start of the Kimbol Lake Trail. It also says that the lake is 3.5 km, and I wasn’t ready for that, so returned to the campground.
We had a wonderful evening in the campground, with the thunder of Kuskanax Creek as the background music.
There were only about 10 RVs in the campground that night, and one couple was tenting in the tent area above the RV sites.
We began the next day with an hour-and-a-half soak in the hot pools. We had a leisurely lunch and then, properly equipped, I headed out on what I told Cathy would be about a 3-hour hike to Kimbol Lake. The trail is noted as a Moderate hike – 8 km, 5 hours return, with a 400-meter elevation gain.
The Hot Springs Trail sign notes Kuskanax Falls, but there is no sign pointing the way. I guessed that a faint trail just past the bridge might be it, and was correct.
Getting to Kuskanax Falls at an extremely high spring flow was quite an experience. Between spray and trees, I couldn’t get a good view, but the power of the place was incredible, as this video shows.
The day was cloudy and thunderstorms were moving in fast, but just before 2:00 pm, I was back on the main trail again.
Past the bridge, it’s a rough but lovely trail, reminding me a lot of some of the lower sections of the Chilkoot Trail, running through a second-growth forest of primarily cedar and Douglas fir.
On the cedar stump to the right of the small waterfall in the next photo, you can see the cut made to insert a springboard when the tree was felled many decades ago.
Back at the hot springs source. The actual source is to the lower left in the next photo, then it flows into various pipes and the concrete tank.
I put my feet in the water in the small concrete pool, which is only a few inches deep. Wow, is it hot!!! I can’t find the figure, but am guessing it to be about 116-118°F.
Starting up the Kimbol Lake Trail, I stopped and signed in on the trail register. I noticed that a couple from Osoyoos had tried the trail but lost it the day before. I was curious as to why they lost it – I’d find out soon enough. Within a few minutes, I was into a magnificent old-growth forest. A large thunderstorm was close, and although I couldn’t see it through the forest canopy, I could sure hear it. I expected to be getting wet at any time, but any rain that fell never reached the ground.
Overlooking the bridge seen in the previous photo, trail crews have built a bench from a huge log.
Past the creek crossing, a fairly steep climb took me into more and more snow, and at 2:45, the trail effectively ended. Beyond this pair of large deadfalls, the snow coverage was 100% and the was no way to follow the trail. Still very pleased with the experience, I turned back.
I added a note to my trail log entry that it was snow and deadfalls that ended my hike.
We had another relaxing evening – another long soak, meeting more interesting people, walking the dogs through the campground… As has been the case so often on this trip, we didn’t want to leave. Nakusp Hot Springs has such a wonderful vibe. But, Kaslo called, and at about 11:00 on Friday, we broke camp and headed out.
I asked Cathy to take a few photos of the road on the way out. There was a long section of one-lane road where a corner was being blasted away.
It’s not a road to hurry on – the hot springs is 14 km from the highway, and most of the road looks like the section in the next photo.
In the afternoon of Day 20 and morning of Day 21 of the trip – Tuesday, May 15th and Wednesday, May 16th – Cathy and I continued to explore New Denver with one of my sisters and her husband, from our base at the beautiful Centennial Park campground on the shore of Slocan Lake.
Our first stop wen we returned from Sandon was the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre (NIMC). In 1942, 20,881 Nikkei (people of Japanese descent) who lived within 100 miles of the British Columbia coast, 75% of whom were Canadian citizens, were stripped of their civil rights, labelled “enemy aliens”, and forced to move from their homes to communities and camps in the BC interior. New Denver and Sandon were two of those communities.
This appalling part of Canada’s history isn’t nearly as well known as I think it should be. Although it was a BC issue in some ways, it was Canada that made the internments and property seizures legal. It’s a good example of just how fragile democracy is.
Our visit began with a 10-minute introduction to what happened, by the centre’s interpreter. The grandparents of a boy I was friends with all the way through grade school had their fishboats seized and they were sent to one of these camps, so this story is one I’ve always known the basics of. There are a fair number of books about various aspects of the story in print now.
This was the men’s ward at Hastings Park, the assembly location for the moves and the property seizures. When you see photos like this, it’s hard to imagine that these were Canadians, and many of them were professionals and business people.
New Denver had a population of about 350 in early 1942, and 1,505 Nikkei were sent here. Some of the men among the first Japanese-Canadian arrivals were paid to build 275 shacks for the new residents in an area called “The Orchard”.
Many of New Denver’s new residents experienced their first real winter while living in tents while shacks were being built.
Moving from tents to shacks didn’t improve comfort a great deal – the shacks had no insulation initially, and amenities were very basic.
As visitors go through the various buildings on the centre’s property, the Japanese garden winding around them is a peaceful and beautiful constant as you come out from the disturbing images in each building.
A few outhouses were the sanitary facilities for the large Nikkei population.
Despite their treatment and accommodations, the Nikkei in general worked hard to form “normal” communities, with many of the events that they would have had in their former homes. I bought a copy of “Karizumai: A Guide to Japanese Canadian Internment Sites” – I’m not nearly finished with this story.
After that visit, with the temperature up around 28°C, we were all due for some play at the leash-free dog beach adjacent to the marina, which is adjacent to Centennial Park. A thinned forest goes almost to the water’s edge, so those who wanted shade could have it, while the fur-kids and I played in the sun and water 🙂
It takes some encouragement to get Bella swimming, but then she gets really funny. Sticks are always the winning toy.
Somebody got creative with some driftwood.
This was the only boat we saw on the lake, and we had the beach to ourselves. I would have expected both the lake and the beach to be busy on a day like this.
Due to a puppyhood trauma apparently, Nicky doesn’t like deep water, but I eventually got her in for sticks, too 🙂
The creek at the north end of the beach was roaring, and pouring huge amounts of sediment into the lake, but the lake water just a couple of hundred meters away was wonderfully clear. We could even hear large boulders tumbling down the creek.
It was as perfect an afternoon as we could have hoped for. I even took my kayak out for a bit.
After dinner, a crew of about 8 volunteers showed up to re-surface the bocce ball courts in front of our campsites. In short order, it looked like new, and the next morning, a class of children was there being instructed in how to play the game.
Our final place to visit on Tuesday evening, as the sun was going down behind the high peaks, was the Kohan Reflection Garden (“Kohan” means “by the water”). On the lakeshore adjacent to the south of Centennial Park, it “was created to honour the Japanese Canadians interred here during the Second World War.”
Kohan Garden contains many features of a Japanese garden including a tea house, and several flowering cherry trees planted by the Funjinkai, a women’s organization.
The boat launch, with the peaks to the south in the last light of the day. The boat launch is beside the lakeside camping sites, which don’t have power or water.
Warren and I had split dinner duties – he barbecued chicken for our firt dinner together, and I barbecued home-made burger patties the second night. Warren handled our final breakfast. Cooking is easier, and everything tastes better, when it’s done outside, especially in a location like this 🙂
Located beside us was a large tent-camping area. We were very impressed by quality of maintenance of everything in New Denver. With a population of only about 500, the town seems to have lots of money. Judging by the number of homes, there must be a sizeable seasonal community paying taxes.
Cathy and I didn’t want to leave New Denver yet, but had non-refundable reservation at Nakusp Hot Springs. Before heading north, we all drove over to downtown New Denver for a look around. The “business centre” is small and has a good feel to it, with some unique shops in the old buildings.
Tracy can never walk by a fabric shop, and “Sew Much More” had some beautiful material to entice her as well as lots of yarn in the other room.
I love communities that value their heritage. In some cases it’s just that there isn’t enough money to bulldoze and build anew, but I’m pretty sure that New Denver knows what attracts people.
There are several vacant buildings downtown, and the commercial block that’s for sale for $250,000 looked like a good deal, as the building on 4 commercial lots even has a rental apartment suite.
What a wonderful place to play chess on a warm day like this.
That’s my kind of wind vane 🙂
At about 11:30, we returned to the campground, finished packing up, said our “good-byes” and headed north towards Nakusp Hot Springs.
On Days 18, 19, and 20 of our RV trip – Sunday-Tuesday, May 13-15 – we drove from Greenwood to Nelson for a one-night stay, then to New Denver for 2 nights. Although I have lots to tell you about New Denver, the focus of this post will be Sandon, which we visited on May 15th.
I mentioned on my last post about Greenwood that I wanted to get up for a close look at the Greenwood Smelter chimney. I did take Tucker up there before we left, and it is a very impressive structure. Not just the chimney, but the entire brick structure that provided the draft that powered the many furnaces in the smelter. The larger the circumference and taller the chimney, the more furnaces that air can be provided for.
Nelson was supposed to be a significant visit for us, but wasn’t, due mostly to our extended stay in Penticton. I was meeting one of my sisters in New Denver, so we only had one night in Nelson – it deserves at least three. We only had a quick look at the city and the area. The next photo was shot on Baker Street, which is the main commercial street.
We had a very nice dinner at the historic Hume Hotel across from the former federal government building seen in the next photo – it’s now the museum. Nelson was our first bad choice in places to stay – let’s just say as a mini-review that we won’t be back to Klines RV Park.
I got a nice surprise on Monday morning while were grocery shopping before leaving Nelson. One of my Facebook friends used to drive bus in Whitehorse and now lives in Nelson. I had told him that we didn’t have time to get together for a proper visit, but said that we were going to be at Saveon. He tracked us down, and we had a mini-visit in the store. Thanks for making the effort, Nick – it was great meeting you 🙂
We pulled away from Nelson at about 11:30, backtracking on Highway 3a, and then heading north on Highway 6. It’s a narrow, winding old-style Kootenays highway, with scenery that ranges from beautiful to spectacular. Although the speed limit signs ay 90 km/h, there are many more signs that tell drivers to slow to 70 or even 50 km/h for corners, so we averaged a bit over 70.
We reached the Centennial Park campground at New Denver at about 2:00 pm, and got set up in a site beside the one that my sister and her hubby had picked. With power (30 amp) and water, it’s $30 per night – we got it for 2 nights, though Tracy and Warren were going to be there for 3.
Centennial Park is wonderful – a wide range of facilities, maintained at a high level, in a stunning location on the shore of Slocan Lake, with a very friendly park attendant taking care of everything.
This early, there were only about 10 RVs camped, and the beach was a place for sit and silently soak in the beauty of the place. I expect that very soon, that will not always be the case 🙂
There are plenty of places to walk the dogs on-leash, and a very good off-leash beach that I’ll tell you about in the next post. In the next photo, Cathy has Tucker and Bella, and Warren and Tracy have their chihuahua Jilly, and Australian shepherd Nicky.
We hit the road fairly early for the 14-km drive to Sandon, which is at the end of a 6-km side road off Highway 31a which runs from New Denver to Kaslo. I thought that the area was completely mined out, and was a bit surprised to see Klondike Silver Corp. operating at the edge of town.
We drove to the top end of downtown Sandon to start. Nothing would be open for a few days yet – the Victoria Day holiday weekend is the beginning of the tourists season here. High-grade silver was discovered here in 1891, and although the population reached 8,000, there isn’t a lot left now.
There is old equipment laying around everywhere, and a lot of it, like this dumping ore cart, is very high quality stuff that many museums would love to have.
There were lots of large patches of snow around, which made Bella in particular very happy. And any time that Bella is happy, Tucker has a better chance of getting her to play, so he’s happy about that 🙂
A man opened the Sandon Museum door and went in, but it wasn’t being opened yet.
I did take advantage of the open door to get a couple of photos of the interior of the museum.
This Heritage BC Stop of Interest sign describes the Slocan Mines: Silver was the key that opened the Slocan. Discovery in 1891 of the rich outcrops of the “Slocan Star” and “Payne” touched off the wildest lode excitement in our history. The silver-lead ore was easily and cheaply mined, speeding development, and the area boomed. Roads, towns and railways remain, linking the present with an era when silver was king.
The store in Sandon, the Prospector’s Pick, is in the fire hall and city hall building that was constructed in 1900.
A look through a little window beside the fire hall doors showed the building to be jammed full of interesting stuff. We’d have to come back in a week to see it all, though, and that wasn’t going to happen.
Canadian Pacific Railway’s locomotive #6947 was purchased from Alberta by Wrightway Charter Company of Sandon, who is now trying to raise funds for its restoration. Originally CPR #1737, it’s a 1908 2-8-0 Consolidation-class locomotive was worked in many places across Canada, including CPR’s Kootenay Subdivision from 1926 to 1928. I noted to Cathy that the front wheels were missing, but a sign on the locomotive notes that it was rebuilt into its current 0-8-0 configuration in 1928.
A highlight of this visit to Sandon was the collection of Brill trolley buses. I wrote about Vancouver’s Brill buses in March, and had been looking forward to seeing what was here.
What is now called the Electric Transit Museum is said to be the interim home for these Brill trolleys until they can be returned to Vancouver and possibly other cities for restoration and possibly even return to revenue service. A letter of explanation says that one of these buses, built between 1946 and 1954, can be restored for about $250,000 – about 1/3 the cost of buying a new one.
Many of the buses have information about that particular unit, and when the season begins, one bus is open to the public, with a Brill trolley display inside it.
Peeking through windows is okay but I’d sure like to get inside and sit down in that seat. For any fan of old buses, Sandon really is a must-visit. I hope that someday the museum’s vision of having some of these Brills restored and returned to service will come true.
After our look at the downtown area, we drove back to the east side of the creek and up to what appears to be the end of town (though they may actually be much more hidden in the bush). The next photo looks back down towards the downtown area.
One resident of the upper part of town has an amazing collection of cast-iron pieces attached to a couple of shed walls and a large stump 🙂
The 1900 City Hall is best seen from the east side of the creek, as is the museum.
Driving back to New Denver, I stopped at the junction of the Sandon road and Highway 31a to see what the Galena Trail is about. It’s the historic route of the Nakusp & Slocan Railway, and it takes about 2 hours to walk from here to New Denver
We got back to New Denver about , and had a wonderful afternoon of museum and garden touring, and beach play with the dogs. I’ll tell you about that in the next post.
We had a brief look at Greenwood when we arrived, but on Day 17 of the trip – Saturday, May 12th – I wanted to see a lot more of Greenwood and the area. In particular, I wanted to see the famous mountaintop mining area of Phoenix, where 4,000 people lived a century ago. I don’t know why I ever thought that a one-night stay at Greenwood might be enough 🙂
I was away from the motorhome at 07:00, leaving Cathy and the fur-kids to start the day in a more normal way. I wanted to start the day by finding Boundary Falls, which is marked on some maps, but isn’t signed, and is barely mentioned online.
Boundary Falls seemed to be somewhere close to a Stop of Interest pullout with interpretive panels about the Dewdney Trail and the Boundary Falls Smelter.
This is what Boundary Creek looked like below the pullout. The flood stage is doing a lot of damage, but I could see no hint of a waterfall either upstream or down.
I continued west on Highway 3, past the Boundary Falls Ranch, and was soon at the town of Midway, where there was a museum, the Kettle River Museum, which I also wanted to see. It was, of course, closed, but I had a look around the property.
Much of the Kettle Valley Railroad (KVR) grade is now a cycling trail, and it seems to be a big deal in Midway and a few other communities. The KVR Trail and Columbia & Western Rail Trail form the longest rail trail network in British Columbia, with some 650 km of connected pathways between Hope and Castlegar.
Poking around Midway, I found the most unique RV dump I’ve ever seen, by the little grass-strip airport.
On the drive back to the Boundary Creek Provincial Park campground, I stopped for a look at the small slag pile from the Boundary Falls Smelter, which only operated from 1902 until 1907.
I couldn’t resist seeing what was up Boundary Smelter Road. Nothing – it dead-ends at private property in half a kilometer or so.
This point on the KVR cycling trail is called Boundary Falls (the community at the smelter was also called Boundary Falls), but there’s no clue as to where the falls might be.
The farm at the intersection of the Boundary Smelter Road and Highway 3 looked wonderful in the morning light.
One of the maps hinted that Boundary Falls might be up a side road, so I headed up a logging road. It offered some great views of the valley, but after about 4 km I turned around.
One of the views was of the Boundary Falls Smelter slag pile.
I went back to the motorhome, fed the dogs and then headed back out with them. By 08:45 I was back in Greenwood, where the light was perfect to get some photos of the Welcome to Greenwood interpretive area.
This Heritage BC Stop of Interest sign is about the Greenwood Smelter: In this wilderness of rugged mountains, ore was first found in the late 1880s. Further prospects led to the building of a large smelter by the B.C. Copper Co. From 1901, copper, gold, and silver poured from its furnaces. Fed by the great Motherlode Mine, it employed 400 men. The collapse of inflated war-time copper prices forced closure in 1918.
What photographer could resist a photo of the Greenwood Inn and the highly-rated Copper Eagle Cappuccino and Bakery when the bakery’s ’55 Chevy is out front?
The flooding in downtown Greenwood is pretty bad. The Nikkei Legacy Park is completely inundated. The park was created to honour the Japanese-Canadians from coastal BC who had all of their assets seized and were sent to Greenwood and other internment camps during World War II. About 1,200 were sent to Greenwood.
This is St. Jude’s Anglican Church.
The federal government building, now the post office, is the most imposing of the brick buildings in Greenwood.
By going back to the visitor centre and studying the map out front, I was able to find the smelter park. It was named the Lotzkar Memorial Park after Leon Lotzkar, who bought the smelter after it closed, sold the equipment, and then donated the land to the city. There are no signs pointing the way to the park, and even at the gate, it’s not clear that visitors are welcome.
This must have been a very impressive operation – the ruins are massive. The smelter had its own community, called Anaconda.
Bella and Tucker finally got to go for a little adventure at the smelter park.
There are some very sharp shards on the slag pile, so we didn’t walk very far on it, but you can see how large the “hell’s bells” are. The molten residue from the furnaces was brought out here in bell-shaped rail cars, and some cooled enough to maintain that shape. When the smelter was operating, the slag pile glowed red at night because it was still so hot.
I cut our visit short so haven’t been up to the chimney yet. When it was built in 1904, it was the tallest in the province at 36 meters. It took 250,000 bricks to build it.
Returning to the motorhome, Cathy and I had breakfast and got ready for a big day of exploring. We were at the visitor centre just after it opened at 10:00 and got directions to the road to Phoenix (which isn’t signed), and to Boundary Falls (though those directions were vague and confusing).
An 8-page handout gives 14 points of interest along the Phoenix road, which is about 22 km long from Greenwood to its eastern junction with Highway 3 north of Grand Forks. The first one we stopped at was the Phoenix Cemetery, which was open from 1901 until 1919. The next photo shows the cemetery looking down from the road. Findagrave lists 201 burials here, with the first in January 1902.
The first grave we came to was for 28-year old Maria Poscente and her twin boys, who died inn 1918. That was a sad start to this look at Phoenix.
Headstones sometimes hint at interesting stories. Why does this one have the names of 20-year-old Samuel B. Jones who died in 1906 and 3-month-old Edwin Bellis who died in 1912? Jones died after one of his legs which had developed gangrene was amputated following a mine accident.
Most of the 40 or so graves that are marked have marble headstones. This is one of the very few wooden markers remaining, and it’s not legible.
I was very surprised to find a second cemetery just a few meters from the first. Only 4 graves are marked in this fenced area – 2 from the period when the first cemetery was in operation, one from 1948 and one from 1951.
About 300 meters past the cemetery is a large field with the ruins of a building. The road guide says that this was a farm that supplied eggs, milk, and vegetables to Phoenix.
In the distance to the right in the next photo is a massive wall of rock. It’s a dam built in the 1950s to contain a tailings pond.
This lovely lake covers part of the 1950s tailings pond.
This is where the community of Phoenix was located. It was completely swallowed by this open-pit mine. Once referred to as “The Mile High City”, the elevation of Phoenix was actually 1,450 meters (4,757 feet).
The only thing that remains from Phoenix other than the cemetery is this cenotaph. It lists the names of 15 men from Phoenix who were killed in World War I. For us, this was a nice place to have the lunch we’d brought.
We made a detour to Marshall Lake, which was created for use by the 1950s Phoenix mine. The dam was reduced in size in 2012 due to concerns about its possible failure. The area now has 17 km of cross-country ski trails.
There are a few logging cuts as the road descends towards Highway 3 north of Grand Forks. On a side road just above this cut is the Phoenix Ski Hill, built in 1969 on and donated by Granby Mining.
Testing of the tailings seen in the next photo, from 1959-1962, indicated that enough gold, silver, and copper was missed by the original processing methods to make re-processing them viable, and that’s now being done.
Making a circle drive for part of the drive back to Geenwood, we came to an area with enough snow to let Bella and Tucker out for a play. It had gotten very warm, perhaps 25°C (77°F).
Once we got back to Greenwood, we headed a few miles north to our final destination, Jewel Lake Provincial Park. The park was still closed, and a lot of trees that had come down over the winter needed to be cleared from the roadways.
There’s a very small beach at the day-use area, but we didn’t walk that far. The small-boat launch provided enough access to the water to allow Bella and Tucker to play in it for a bit, fetching a ball and sticks. I was in the water playing with them for a few minutes, but only up to my knees – the water was very cold.
The next photo was shot along the road back to Highway 3. Before going back to the motorhome, I made one more short search for Boundary Falls, to no avail. By 3:00 pm, we were back at Boundary Creek campground, me suntanning and the others relaxing in the shade overlooking the creek.
Just after 7:00 pm, I saw the park operator doing some work on an adjacent campsite, and decided to give Boundary Falls another try. Dan was able to give me detailed instructions on how to find them, also warning me about very dangerous cliffs there. Though it would soon be dark, I immediately headed out.
Just west of the Dewdney Trail Stop of Interest, I saw the canyon Dan mentioned, and close to it, this very old road that he described. Finally, some progress! 🙂
The old road and then possible pack trails led me into the Boundary Creek canyon, but though I walked down it quite a way, I couldn’t find the waterfall that I’d seen historic and current photos of.
Was this log cabin connected to the Boundary Falls power operation, or to the Boundary Falls Ranch? It wasn’t clear.
With darkness setting in, I made a fast hike up the canyon, and a couple of minutes after 8:00 pm, I came to Boundary Falls. Not only is the waterfall itself worth seeing, the ruins of the dam and power plant add great historical interest.
I had a quick look at the site, then headed back towards the highway on the shortest route. I soon came to an old road, and it led me right to the west end of the Dewdney Trail Stop of Interest site. For a future trip, I now have a short and easy way to reach the falls. The explanation is very simple – walk down the road at the west end of the Dewdney Trail Stop of Interest site for about 10 minutes, then follow the sound of the waterfall for another couple of minutes.
Well satisfied with our two days and nights at Greenwood, I was content now to continue on to Nelson the ext day. Well, not quite – I wanted to get a close look at the Greenwood Smelter chimney before we left.
After delaying our departure from Penticton by a day so we could tour more wineries, I was content to head south and east into the Kootenays on Day 16 of the trip – Friday, May 11th. The destination was probably Greenwood, only 140 km away. The abandoned mines and ghost towns high above might make it a 2-night stay, depending on what water and snow conditions we found.
Friday morning was grooming time for Bella, who takes to it like a spa day. She just melts, lifting a leg or rolling over when appropriate. Although Cathy soon had enough hair to knit another dog, Bella still has most of her winter coat and the hot weather ahead will be really uncomfortable for her. We’ll be watching for good swimming lakes to help with that.
Before leaving Wright’s Beach Camp on Skaha Lake, I walked around getting a few more photos. Our motorhome is near the end of the line of trailers in the next photo. Almost all of the trailers were unoccupied. We would definitely come back here off-season, but I’m willing to bet that it’s way too busy for us in the summer.
Right across highway 97 from the campground is this lovely farmhouse dating to about 1910-1915.
I stopped for a big load of fuel at Kaleden ($331 worth at $1.409/liter), then our next stop was at the Oliver Archives. Here, I donated some documents from the historic Haynes Ranch that Dad had collected from the abandoned ranch house in 1966 or ’67. He just took a sampling of about 25 documents from the many hundreds lying scattered around the house. Together, they now give a very interesting look at the ranch and the family. I was with Dad at the ranch, but when he started going through the papers one by one, I went for a drive 🙂
We had heard about flooding and evacuations in the Osoyoos area, and although it didn’t impact the highway, we could see on side streets and along the lakes that the flooding is serious for thousands of people and dozens of businesses – lakeshore hotels and motels in particular.
There were several other places along the route that were hard hit by flooding, with the community of Rock Creek being particularly bad. The highway was sand-bagged or bermed in a few places, but only one spot had a bit of water from an overflowing creek going across the highway.
At about 1:30, we arrived at the 17-site Boundary Creek Provincial Park campground, just 4 km from Greenwood.
The campground actually only has 16 sites now, as much of site #1 has been washed away in the past few days. The firepit is about to drop 6 feet into Boundary Creek.
We picked site #10, about 30 feet from the creek – close enough for the sound to be loud, but far enough away to be safe. The nightly fee is $18 – I just paid for one night because I’m not sure yet whether it’ll be one or two nights.
After lunch and then a nap when a rainstorm hit, we drove into Greenwood. There, we found that the Visitor Centre is open 10-4, and we missed it by a few minutes.
We continued through town, and found that all of the parks and many homes toward the north end of town are flooded.
The proprietor/barrista at Tarnished Turkey Cappuccino in Deadwood Junction is quite a character. On a serious note, we heard him tell another customer that somebody they knew had lost his house to floods 2 days before, and the next day, he’d lost his business as well. With a couple of lattes and some excellent pastries, we were ready for a bit of a walk through town. Cathy is still having a lot of trouble with a knee, so walks are slow and short.
Things are quiet now, but in 1899, the population of copper-mining boomtown Greenwood, founded in 1895, was 3,000. There were 16 hotels, 3 banks, 15 general stores and a host of other businesses in a town that stretched through the narrow valley for 2 miles. A few very interesting buildings remain from those days.
Some very high-quality homes remain as well as the commercial and government buildings.
Driving north of Greenwood on Highway 3, I stopped at what I assumed was a tunnel for one of several railways built in the area. An interpretive panel beside it explains that it was, however, a road tunnel that was built in 1913 – the railway ran above it.
Back at the motorhome, Tucker started trying to convince us to go bed at about 7:00. With some snuggling, Cathy convinced him to stay up until just after 8, then he went to bed without us. We weren’t too far behind. I’m finishing the first day of this post just after 06:00 on Saturday – it’s looking like a great day coming, with sunshine and a high of 25°C. It’s a rather chilly 5°C outside at the moment.
The next day, we’d explore the mining history of the Greenwood area in more depth.