On Travel: Awesome Day Trip! Big White, BC to Greenwood, BC

A couple of days ago, I posted a blog on my exploration of the abandoned 102 year old smelter in Greenwood (Anaconda) BC – what a cool experience! If you haven’t had a chance to read that blog – click here.

This blog will document our journey from Big White, BC to Greenwood, BC – with stops at Beaverdell, Rock Creek and Midway.

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We headed out on Highway 33 (Kelowna Rock Creek Highway), which is the main access road to where I’m staying up at Big White.  Big White is located near the apex of the pass between West Kettle and Kelowna.

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Beaverdell

The only other visible community on Highway 33 is Beaverdell, an unincorporated settlement in Monashee Country. It’s located midway along the West Kettle River between Kelowna and Rock Creek.

Interesting Little Tidbits on Beaverdell:

  • Beaverdell was originally called Beaverton. The post offices of Beaverton and Rendell were amalgamated and the name was changed to Beaverdell.
  • Silver was discovered here in 1897 and was mined right up until 1987.
  • 350 residents make this town their home.
  • Despite its proximity to Kelowna, Beaverdell receives about 25% more rain, due to its higher elevation.

We pulled in to fill up the tank.  They have a convenient gas station that also serves as a coffee shop/and auto repair shop – convenient, right?  If you happen to drive an electric car – they also have electric chargers to meet your charging needs.

Once we gassed up we headed back out onto Hwy 33 and continued straight.  Other than absolutely stunning views and vistas, there aren’t any communities to stop at.


Westbridge

Your next point of reference will be Westbridge – you can’t miss it, it’s a bridge.  You’ll turn right onto the bridge, turning left will get you to Christian Valley. The bridge crosses the West Kettle River at the community of Westbridge, BC.

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For the remainder of the drive to Rock Creek you will see utter forestry devastation on both sides and new builds where folk lost their homes.  In 2015 an aggressive wildfire forced hundreds of people to flee the area – not to mentioned the complete devastation to plant and wildlife.  It turns out the fire appeared to be human caused and burned more than 2500 hectares.  Vegetation has since regrown and wildlife has returned and 5 years later trees still stand bare, blackened, scorched.

We just drove through Westbridge – I’d like to check out more on the Skycliffe Humph Monastery Retreat. Apparently this centre is for spiritual awareness specializes in Buddhist Transcendental Meditation.


Rock Creek

Eventually Hwy 33 turns into BC-3 E (Highway 3, which is also known as the Crowsnest Hwy) and you’ll have arrived at Rock Creek, BC. Rock Creek is an unincorporated settlement in the Boundary Country.  It’s situated on the famous Kettle Valley Rail Trail that has stunning views of the banks of the Kettle River. 

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It’s also site of the Rock Creek Gold Rush of 1859.  I was actually excited to visit Rock Creek as I had heard about the western Canadian gold rush via the television documentary series Gold Trails and Ghost Towns, (Season 3, Episode 8).  I thought I may have had a chance to see something a bit more exciting than what I did.  I saw a very high, fast moving Kettle Creek (close to breaching its banks) and campers camping at various sites for the May 2-4 Long Weekend.  Rock Creek wasn’t super exciting for me – maybe next time I can do some panning for gold?  It’s a thing, you can!

After the initial mining boom, the residents of Rock Creek began to develop an economy in agriculture, forestry, and ranching.

Next stop …


Midway

The Village of Midway is in a tranquil valley surrounded by protective mountains between the Thompson Okanagan and Kootenay Rockies. The Village of Midway’s population is a whopping 649 people!

Honestly, I thought Midway was super cute.  Could have spent a little more time here.  Also, the museums and things I’d normally love to do were closed due to COVID-19, which is unfortunate, I love museums – so full of rich local history.

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Located at “Mile 0” of the Kettle Valley Railway, one of the Museum’s main attractions is the original Station House.

Midway is also home to the Ferry-Midway Border Crossing which connects the town of Curlew, Washington with Midway. The current US border station was built in 1936 Curlew, WA and is an unincorporated community with 118 residents based on the 2010 US Census.  You can connect to Copper Bute Mountain, WA via Midway.


Greenwood

We’ve arrived!  Greenwood, BC!  I really took a liking to this historic little city.  That’s right, city not town. It’s the smallest incorporated city in Canada Pop: 665 as of 2016 and has retained its “city” status despite declination in population and business/industry.  Although it’s the size of a hamlet, it was incorporated in 1897 as a booming city, the epicentre of the mining and smelting industry in Boundary country with a boisterous population of 3,500.

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On your approach to Greenwood (just outside the city) you’ll note a historic stop point or two, worth the quick stops.

Per my last blog on the BC Copper Company Smelter ruins as you enter Anaconda, BC – the unincorporated township just outside of Greenwood – where the smelter is located, you cannot miss the 100 ft mound of dark black slag and imposing 215 ft smoke stack. Deciding to “save the best for last” we first went to explore Copper Street and the Nikkei Memorial Site.

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Did you know that in 1998, several scenes of the Oscar nominated movie Snow Falling On Cedars (featuring Ethan Hawk) were filmed in Greenwood?  A lot of the Japanese extras were Japanese-Canadians who were interned during there war. Some of the phantom signs and shops remain.  The phantom signs and revamped store fronts helped transform their little mining town into the Puget Sound fishing village of Amity Harbor. The signs have faded over the years and unfortunately have not been up-kept.

These phantom signs and shops are still visible and are located on historic Copper Street.

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Nikkei Legacy Park

HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR WWII HISTORY?

Next we headed over to The Nikkei Legacy Park which is located just on the outskirts of downtown Greenwood.

In 1942, internment of Japanese Canadians occurred when over 22,000 Japanese Canadians, comprising of over 90 percent of the total Japanese Canadian population, from British Columbia were evacuated and interned in the name of “national security”. The majority were Canadian citizens by birth. This decision followed the events of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent Canadian declaration of war on Japan during World War II. This forced relocation subjected many Japanese Canadians to government-enforced curfews and interrogations, job and property losses, and forced repatriation to Japan.

Beginning after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and lasting until 1949, Japanese Canadians were stripped of their homes and businesses and sent to internment camps and farms in the B.C. interior and across Canada. The internment and relocation program was funded in part by the sale of property belonging to this forcefully displaced population, which included fishing boats, motor vehicles, houses, and personal belongings.

On September 22, 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney delivered an apology, and the Canadian government announced a compensation package, one month after President Ronald Reagan made similar gestures in the United States. The package for interned Japanese Canadians included $21,000 to each surviving internee, and the reinstatement of Canadian citizenship to those who were deported to Japan.

Among those interned at Greenwood were Isamu and Fumiko Kariya and their son Yasi, the grandparents and uncle of NHL star and Hockey Hall of Famer Paul Kariya; his father Tetsuhiko was born in internment.

Odds and Ends, Out and About Town

BC Copper Smelter Ruins

I wrote a specific blog about this, here’s the link, again.  It was super cool and I would strongly recommend exploring this!  Here are some awesome pics of that adventure. DO IT!


Deadwood

Next we went on the hunt for the abandoned ghost town of Deadwood, BC. We drove down Deadwood Rd. looking for some relics, some semblance that there once was a town here. Deadwood existed in 1897 and was located several miles west of Greenwood. A number of copper claims in the area gave rise to Deadwood. The Mother Lode Mine became a great mine although Deadwood disappeared within a few years. Deadwood contained two hotels, a store, a post office and a school.

There’s nothing left of the town, although there’s a large field where it once stood and two small shed like structures which were half falling town toward the other side of the road. However, they could have nothing to do with the former town. The name survives in Deadwood Road and Greenwood’s Deadwood Junction Small Town Coffee Shop.

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Well folks, that just about wraps up our day trip from Big White to Greenwood. It’s definitely worth spending a day exploring this route.

I hope this blog has helped you decide if this is a route worth exploring and what points of interest may be in each hamlet on the route from Big White to Greenwood.

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Exploring the 102 Year Old Abandoned BC Copper Company Smelter Ruins

DID THE COOLEST THING YESTERDAY!!! I explored the BC Copper Company Smelter Ruins in Greenwood, British Columbia (BC). IT’S BEEN ABANDONED FOR 102 YEARS!

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The weather on Big White (Mountain) called for rain all day, that was the perfect opportunity for a day trip! Initially planned to head to Penticton, BC and the weather was equally sucky there, so opted to head in the opposite direction and head down toward Beaverdell, Rock Creek, Midway and Greenwood.  I’ll post a separate blog on Greenwood, BC because I think it’s worth having a separate blog, it’s a super cute “city” with a colourful past and history. Today, I’m specially going to focus on the BC Copper Company Smelter ruins.

Visible to passersby just off Highway 3, travelling East (left hand side) is a HUGE black slag ridge and imposing  215 foot smokestack.

In searching for the entrance to the smelter, we came across this kind gentleman.  He owned a house near the Welcome to Greenwood sign. He wore a ball cap, had thin transition glasses on, which were in sunglass mode because he was outside gardening. IMG_7353He dawned a greyish/black moustache and had lightly greyed hair sticking out from his ball cap.  He described his little town, where he’d come from to settle there, and the inexpensive price of land.  He offered to take us to another abandoned mining town (City of Paris).  We rain checked and definitely will take him up on it some time in the future. He guided us to turn left at the road before you get to the Cango gas station to get up to the smelter (then turn left). 10 minutes or so into the conversation and, just as we were departing, I introduced myself,  he replied “my name is Pat”. This man not only looked like my dad, had some of his mannerisms … to boot his name was Pat. Ironically (or not) this weekend marked 5 years that we spread my dad’s ashes at the trailer (came up in my Facebook memories). Dad was undoubtedly saying “hi”.

The smelter was built by the British Columbia Copper Company, a new York-based organization that bought the Mother Lode mine in 1898. All of the material that was processed at the smelter came from the Mother Lode mine, which was about 8 kms away my rail. The smelter was erected on a 22-hectare site at the mouth of Copper Creek in Anaconda (just south of Greenwood), the smelter’s own little community.

The smelter operated 24 hours a day and during its 1st year in operation, 106,200 tonnes of ore were smelted.  January 18, 1902 marked a record day …. 416 tonnes (about 9 tonnes for every man employed), were smelted!

Throughout World War I the smelter operated at a reduced rate and on November 26, 1918 it closed its doors, forever. The plant was apparently sold to a Mr. Leon Lotzkar who then disposed of the machinery and gave the site to the City of Greenwood as a park.  Nothing has been done with the park other than erecting the gazebo type structure below, by no means is it a “memorial park”.

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As instructed by our local friend Pat, we turned left just prior to the Cango gas station and parked at the entrance … gates are closed for driving access and there’s a sign that suggests you enter at your own risk.  Contrary to the sign at the entrance, the mine is not active, nothing has been mined here in over 102 years.

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When you first enter you’ll see a house on the left hand side, I didn’t take photos of that (and I should have).  I assume this was the house of the person who operated and oversaw the smelter.

This must have been a very impressive operation, the ruins are massive!  Walking past the house, you immediately come to the large, and I mean large,  black mountain of slag. The smelter ruins mostly sit on the heavy ridge of slag. Very cool to see up close and walk on. Slag is the glass-like by-product left over after a desired metal has been separated (smelted) from its raw ore. Slag is usually a mixture of metal oxides and silicon dioxide. It was light (maybe a couple of ounces) “rock”, looked like glass and was very dark black/grey.  Every so often you come across slag in the shape of bells.

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The ‘bells’ are huge black slag cones which are referred to as “hell’s bells”.  They were a by-product of the smelter operation. Transported by bell-shaped rail cars (see last photo above – remnants of an old rail line), they were dumped onto the ground, red hot and glowing.  What a sight that must have been at night time – similar to molten lava from a volcano!

Walked up a bit further to find the entrance of what appeared to be a draft shaft and a side shaft.

Further up the trail appeared the smelter stack —- tada!  The original stack was built with sheet steel and was replaced by the present brick stack when the works were expanded in 1904. The brick stack is 36 meters tall, the highest in the province, and contains nearly 250,000 bricks.

Other building ruins have been graffitied – although not in keeping with the historical were pretty cool and created awesome photos.

A little further down from the building ruins, I came across remnants of mining materials which were not sold off.  These artifacts have been sitting and exposed to the elements for 102 years!  102 YEARS!  One looks like to could be some type of boiler or air compressor, the other large piece looks like it could have been part of something that belonged in the Blower Room.

Abandoned SINCE THAT TIME, the smelter’s huge slag pile and tall brick stack has become a landmark along Highway 3, with the site possessing a very appealing mystique. From the last I saw, the City was writing grants and looking for funds to develop the BC Copper Company Ruins into a tourist destination, that was in 2016, nothing yet.

I could have spent way more time at the smelter, really taking in the historical significance of where I was.  Getting really present to what an awesome piece of history I was standing on. I think it’s absolutely fascinating.

This is a must see/do in my books if you’re in/near Greenwood, BC.