One of the things I love about our message board (bb.bc4x4.com) is when users post photos of trails or old mines that I've never heard of before. Thanks to some intriguing photos posted by a user named GVN_erd, my most recent "discovery" was the mines surrounding Beaverdell. Beaverdell is a tiny village (and on the cusp of becoming a ghost town) straddling Highway 33, roughly half way between Kelowna to the north, and Osoyoos to the south. It sits in a narrow valley. On its eastern side is Mount Wallace and it is riddled with mine shafts. Initial prospecting in the Beaverdell area began in the late 1880's. By 1896, the first ore was shipped, and since then the area has been a reliable producer of silver ore, along with some gold.
The lure of new (to me) mines to explore was the initial reason why I wanted to visit Beaverdell. But the other reason I wanted to go there is because of the Kettle River provincial campsite, about 30 kilometres to the south. The campsite was situated along the bend of the shallow and slow-moving Kettle River and is well known for its excellent rafting on hot summer days. In other words, it was a perfect place to bring my wife and kids so they could enjoy themselves while daddy was off exploring some old mines. The town of Osoyoos was also 45 minutes away from the campsite, and was full of wineries, restaurants, and fruit stands. So we made a long weekend of it, spending our days lazing in the river, enjoying Osoyoos, and looking for mines.
Before leaving on our camping trip, I made arrangements to meet up with GVN_erd (aka Darren) on Sunday, in Beaverdell. The drive from our campsite to Beaverdell took about half an hour. Darren was waiting at the appointed spot at the appointed time. He was accompanied by his wife, Nara, and their toddler, Alex. With me was my brother Bill, his boy, Dawson, and my own son, Cam. I was driving my wife's stock Liberty. Darren had a Suzuki Grand Vitara with a small amount of lift, some good mud tires, and a 4500lb winch. With the introductions out of the way, we immediately set off into the woods.
Our first stop was less than 10 minutes from Beaverdell. In fact, it might've only been 5 minutes. After driving up the side of Mt. Wallace for a very short period, Darren took a side road which put us atop a large tailings pile that afforded us a great view of Beaverdell and the western side of the valley. Behind us, set in the shade of the trees was a shaft entrance that was in excellent condition. We grabbed flashlights and headed in. I found a couple of things unusual about this mine. For starters, the ore car rails were very badly corroded, yet the wooden ties that were sitting in the wet earth seemed to be in excellent condition. I assume they soaked them in creosote to preserve them, but even so, they were in remarkably good shape. The other odd thing about this mine was the presence of holes under some portions of the rail bed. I've seen chutes in other mines where they would dump rock from one level to another, but those chutes were always cut into the side of the tunnel. These ones were right in the floor of the shaft. Very strange. Unfortunately, these holes were filled with water so we couldn't really see how deep they were. We walked for about five minutes before reaching a bend in the tunnel and a large puddle of water. I carefully crossed it but the tunnel degraded severely after that. It looked like there had been a partial collapse. Beyond it the tunnel continued but it wasn't in very good condition. The walls were slanted and it didn't look like they ever laid cart tracks in this part of the tunnel. If I continued, I wouldn't be able to walk upright, at least not for the next 30 feet or so, and I didn't know what was around the corner, so I turned around.
A view of Beaverdell and the western side of the valley.
The first shaft we explored.
Although the rails were heavily corroded, the ties were in pretty good shape.
Every now and then we came across water-filled holes under the tracks.
Back in the trucks, we continued driving for, oh, another 4 minutes, before Darren took another turn-off, this time putting us beside an old, mostly-collapsed building. We got up, put some bug spray on to protect us from the mosquitoes who made a sudden appearance, and began walking around the area, looking at some other collapsed buildings and some other shafts. These ones were in much worse condition and required crawling to get in, so we skipped them. After that, it was another 5 or 10 minute drive before we stopped at more collapsed buildings and shafts. We repeated this pattern for the rest of the day. I don't think we drove more than 2 km all day. The density of mine shafts in this small area was impressive. Equipped with a hard hat, some lights, rubber boots and coveralls, a person could spend a couple of days exploring all these shafts. Maybe even longer if he brought rope.
I'm not sure what that thing in the foreground is. It kind of looked like a bird cage.
One of the more unusual shafts we found was actually a hole that appeared to drop into a shaft. Whether it was intentionally dug or simply a collapse, I don't know. But it was very strange seeing this deep, deep hole right in the middle of an old road bed. Flagging tape was posted on either side of the hole to warn of the danger. There was another, much larger, hole at another mine site. At this one, there was an adit which led into the bottom a hole, and from that point it dropped even further down. There was a rickety old ladder for any nerves-of-steel explorer who wished to see what was below. Darren went into the adit so I could photograph him from above the hole. That was it for our adventuring. Maybe one day we'd take the plunge into some of these small shafts but until we were properly geared up, and didn't have our kids with us, we'd have to settle for taking photos of the entrances.
A hole leading into a shaft, right in the middle of a road.
Another hole, perfect for falling into.
Darren found a safer way into the bottom of this hole.
The hole had a deeper section that was accessible via an old ladder.
If you enjoy exploring mines or BC's history, I strongly recommend a visit to Beaverdell. For camping, definitely check out the Kettle River campground. Soaking in the river after a dusty and dirty day of mine exploration is a wonderful experience.
Of course, I also suggest that you do not enter the mines, since they're old and could collapse at any moment. But if you insist on going in, bring extra food and water because it's so awkward eating a friend.
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