Marshmallows, graham crackers, chocolate – check! Bonfire – check! Now do I have a ghost story to tell you?
Did you know that the Kootenay Rockies is home to over 20 ghost towns, all of which have since stopped their thriving existence but have left behind unique stories to tell? They might be gone but they are not forgotten.
Photo by David Gluns
Steamboats and paddle-wheelers visited most of these communities (Beaton, Old Beaton, Arrow Park, Arrowhead, Comaplix and Renata) along the Arrow Lakes, but in the 1960s they were submerged beneath the waters of the lake as part of the construction of the Hugh Keenleyside Dam. Several of these low-lying communities were physically moved to higher ground. But during fall and winter low water levels show evidence of these original locations.
A great read by local Nelson author Anne DeGrace - writes about a fictional community of Bear Creek, which was on the historical settlement of Renata in her book "Treading Water".
One of the oldest settlements on Kootenay
Lake is Sanca (Boswell), which was once a gold-rush town of 1,500 miners. Today it’s home
to the Glass House, constructed in 1952 with approximately 500,000 empty
embalming fluid bottles.
The Glass House in Sanca; photo by Don Weixl
Gold was also discovered at Fisherville in
1864, this area and Galbraith's Ferry (later known as Fort Steele) was a bustling
flurry of activity when gold was
discovered on the Wild Horse Creek.
Thousands of people journeyed there hoping to find the mother lode. As for Fisherville, the only remnants are old
graveyards and mining activities, while Fort Steele Heritage Town re-lives the
1880s each and every day.
Fort Steele Heritage Town; photo by Kari Medig
The biggest boom was the community of Sandon. It was once the capital of the Silvery Slocan and the focus of world-wide attention. In the 1890s, Sandon sprang into existence as Canada's richest silver mining community with a population of approximately 5,000 boasting 85 brothels, 29 hotels, 28 saloons, several banks, 3 breweries, 2 railways and dozens of stores and businesses.
The ghost town of Sandon; photo by Andrew Penner
Sandon's demise started in 1899 with a series of labour problems, a devastating downtown fire, declining metal prices and the exhaustion of several major mines. Today, you can still see the original city hall, historic homes, the Silversmith Generating Station, Steam Train Exhibit and Sandon Museum.
Here’s a full list of all our Kootenay Ghost Towns; be sure to explore our unique Kootenay culture this summer.
Story by KootRocks Staffer (Shannon Harrison). Top/cover by Andrew Penner at Fort Steele Heritage Town.