Quirky Attractions in the Kootenays
Unique, historic, and cultural gems to visit.
As a child growing up in Surrey, British Columbia in the 1950s and ’60s, the Trans-Canada Highway through the Fraser Canyon was a regular route for our family road trips, and I’ve never lost my fascination with the seven tunnels that were built between 1957 and 1964. Located between Boston Bar and Yale, they each have their own character and range from 57 metres (187 feet) to 610 metres (2,000 feet) in length. If you’re looking for a scenic drive rich in history and engineering, this one’s for you.
Some of my earliest memories of the Fraser Canyon were actually not very pleasant, as the road before the modern tunnels were built was very scary in places – a narrow, winding, cliff-hanging beast of a road with a couple of short tunnels. Every time my father drove us through the canyon, though, another tunnel had been added and before long, the scary sections were gone and it had become one of the most dramatic sections of highway in North America. My father, now 92 years old, first travelled through the canyon with his parents in 1929, and has similar memories, both from that trip and later pre-tunnel drives. He says that the most unnerving sections were the lengthy wooden trestles, some of them only wide enough for one vehicle, which stuck out from the cliffs in several places, notably south of Alexandra Bridge. Many sections of the old road can still be walked.
Today’s tunnels from north to south are: China Bar (opened in 1961), Ferrabee (1964), Hells Gate (1960), Alexandra (1964), Sailor Bar (1959), Saddle Rock (1958) and Yale (1963). With one exception, the photos below were shot in December 2014 travelling south, the first time in 50-odd years that I’d been a passenger in a car going through the canyon so I could take pictures.
In all of these photos you can see the biggest advantage of driving the Fraser Canyon off-season – there’s very little traffic.
Whether your interests are in scenic photography, history or engineering, the Fraser Canyon has a great deal to offer in any season. Beyond the highway scenes I’ve posted, there are many superb places to go hiking and exploring, many of them on old sections of highway such as at Alexandra Bridge, so offering very easy walking. Interpretive centres at each end of the Fraser Canyon – the Tuckkwiowhum Heritage Interpretive Village in Boston Bar and the Yale Historic Site and Museum in Yale – can add even more depth and colour to your exploring.
Things To Do
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Adventure & Outdoors
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