Reunited with the 3B in the Beaver valley at the foot of Kelly Mountain, the Crowsnest Highway right-angles left to follow the Beaver upstream. Salmo is eleven kilometres away eastward. Hardly noticeable even to a bicyclist, a slight height of land between Kelly and Erie Mountains separates the Salmo watershed from the Beavers. About four miles east of the Tee, a 1991 overpass carries the Highway high over the stripped Nelson & Fort Sheppard right-of-way. Through a patchy forest of spindly evergreens the Highway meanders, diverging from the right-of-way which carries on to loop around the south side of tiny Erie Lake, leaving the Highway the north shore. Near the west end of the Lake the Pine Springs Motel and Campground invites travellers to bide a wee. In the shadows of tall timber, the No. 3 slips past the bowered rest area on the Lakes northern shore to cross Erie Creek on a shoulderless 1953 concrete-decked bridge. The Creek is
for coarse gold
, to paraphrase N.L. Barlee in his book Gold Creeks and Ghost Towns (Hancock House, Surrey and Blaine, 1984),
always worth investigating...
The area has been well investigated. By 1898 enough silver had been noted in nearby rocks that the Mersey, the Ben Hassan and the Arnold had been staked and registered, and the N&FS had laid out a siding in anticipation of trains of loaded ore-cars to be pulled to a smelter. The next year the Relief and the Arlington were staked, and by 1903 the Lucky Boy, the Canadian King, the Bella and Rossi, the Henry Clay, Ida D., Waffer and the promising Keystone had been recorded. Though a few might have sent the occasional sack of ore to market, none could hold a candle to the production of the Arlington and the renamed Second Relief.
Discovered in the valley of the Erie about five kilometres north of the Highway, the Arlington and, actually into the Salmo valley 10 miles farther, the Second Relief, were rich in galena. Come 1901 the Second Relief was employing 50 men to mine and feed a little five-stamp mill that the owners had dragged to the site. A second five-stamp battery added the next year increased capacity to 25 tons per day, demonstrating the potential of the property despite a failing cyanide-process gold recovery plant. In March of 1905 the Second Relief Mining Company acquired the property and were soon mining it with a 35-man workforce. Nearby, the London-based Hastings (B.C.) Exploration Syndicate, Limited, had purchased the Arlington in 1901 and, its local affairs managed by Leslie Hill of future Okanagan fruit endeavours, in 1905 paid its investors a one shilling dividend. The next year its 30-man crew sent 1300 tons of gold- and silver-spiced galena to the Hall Mines smelter at Nelson. Second Relief mined that entire year with the aid of a small steam engine to power the operation when Winter withdrew the services of Erie Creek. The mines worked through 1908, though Second Relief had leased its property to independents and the Arlington shipped but 88 tons. Come 1913 the Arlington closed and the Second Relief changed hands. Injecting a little capital into the operation through their Relief Gold Mining Company, J.A. (John) Finch of Spokane and Lorne Argyle Campbell hoped that a fine crusher and a new cyanide agitation plant would extract more gold from the ore and propel the mine to profitability. Production ceased in 1918 and the next year the Mines surface plant was consumed by the conflagration which razed the upper Beaver valley.
Amazingly both mines sprung back to life in 1927. While Consolidated Mining and Smelting was diamond-drilling for galena on the nearby Arnold and St. Louis, the Oscarson Mining Company of Erie took over the Second Relief group with a 20-man crew, cleaned up the mine, built a dormitory and a new water-powered plant with a Blake crusher and a ball mill. With 5,000 tons of ore in sight and the tailings of the old mine to treat as well, Oscarson got to work mining 23 tons the next year.
To the Arlington in 1927 came a Chicago-based outfit with a specialized plant to process the tailings for silver, presumably. Deciding to have a go at the old mine itself, in 1928 the company installed a well-used 15-stamp mill, only ever using one of the three 5-stamp batteries to crush 20-odd tons. In 1929 the Relief-Arlington Mines, Limited, suspended work at the Arlington to concentrate on the Second Relief. In June of 1933 the William N. ONeil Company, Limited, bought out Relief-Arlington and re-equipped the mill to regain profitability. Through the Second World War the outfit worked, making its last appearance in the B.C. Minister of Mines reports in 1946.
Towards Salmo from the N&FSs Old Erie at the eastern end of Erie Lake lays the little settlement of Erie, originally North Fork before the railroad came through. It isnt much of a place and never was. Clara Graham, in her chapter 4 of The Kootenays in Retrospect (Kootenay Yesterdays, vol. 3, ed. Edwd. L. Affleck, The Alexander Nicolls Press, Vancouver, 1976), reports that in the early 19-aughts the settlement consisted of a handful of miners shacks, the Erie and the Mersey hotels, Jas. R. Hunnexs general and drug store out of which operated the post office, another general store run by W.T. Beadles, a school, and the Great Northern station. While Graham was in residence, Joe Read opened a store and took over the post office, and J.P. Bell modified Beadles store building into a livery barn. Erie today is a few residences scattered about, the budget-priced Selkirk Motel across the Highway from a service station sharing its roof with the Skyways Truckers Haven, a few minor businesses. What remains of Erie the mining camp lays hidden in middens and buried in the dirt.
Eastward from Erie the Highway bumps over the railways level crossing where 1916 Lakawana 9030 rail was still in place in 1999. Five miles farther is Salmo (663m), welcoming east-bound guests with the Sal-Crest Motel where the oldest telephone booth in the world is built into a huge hollow log which dendrochronologically confirms its claim with 465 growth rings.
On the western outskirts of the Village near the Sal-Crest, a wye intersection blends the eastbound No. 3 and the No. 6 coming down from Nelson and sends them southward down the Salmo Rivers valley. Turning northward on 6 puts one on Railway Avenue. To the left the old Nelson and Fort Sheppards empty right-of-way melts into a tiny ex-yards stripped of steel and superintended by a little single-storeyd combination station/freight shed in shabby white, its shiny gabled roof metal-clad to slough off heavy falls of snow, the plants in its sagging window boxes dead from neglect, a flurry of abandoned papers littering its floors. Near the far end of the yards the Reno Motel marks Second Street leading off easterly to the Municipal Campground, a well grassed, well treed terrain equipped with a utility building with showers. The drawback is that the grounds are a public park and playground.
In 2002 the only other place in town offering over-night accommodation is the fancy old Salmo Hotel, an eye arresting two-storied wooden confection which has stood at Railway and Forest/4th Street since 1912, its architectural details picked out in colourfully contrasting paints, the lower level of its double-decked veranda serving as a sidewalk. Unfortunately, only one room is available for over-night guests. The raw lumber fronted Silver Dollar Hotel next door to the Salmo on 4th is, as its prominently displayed motto, Party Time, suggests, just a bar.
In the entire Village, there are only three buildings of historical or architectural distinction. The Hotel, of course, and across Railway Avenue from it, GNs Great War-era station, the second one to occupy the site after GN removed the first to Northport, Washington, during a dispute with the local council. Southerly from the station, on the town-side of Railway, the concrete facade of the one-storey Jas. R. Hunnex building, raised as a drugstore in 1934, sports some art deco details. For fun, several walls around town are enlivened by lithic murals created by the students of the Villages School of Masonry.
Incorporated as a Village on October 30th, 1946, Salmo today makes much of its living from travellers, but in past days was a jumping little community. As outlined by the displays in the Chamber of Commerce-run museum on 4th across from the Hotel, the mining of tungsten, silver, gold, lead, and zinc was, along with forestry, once Salmos occupation.
From the construction camp that N&FS contractors Foley, Stewart and Welsh established in 1893 on the flats near where Erie Creek (at the time called the North Fork of the Salmon River) joins the Salmo, a tiny settlement grew up around the little lumbering operation. It was originally called Salmon Siding for the River which was named for the salmon which havent been seen in these waters since the damming of the Columbia River in the 1930s. As salmon-something is not an uncommon name in north-western North America, locals of classical bent suggested the community distinguish itself from other places by adopting the Latin for salmon, Salmo. In 1897 the settlement was re-christened; the River soon conformed.
The aforementioned Clara Graham in her chapter 4 of The Kootenays in Retrospect (Kootenay Yesterdays) states that, come 1899, Salmo two general stores run one each by W.G. Norton and Prosser & McLeod, a post office mastered by W.T. Beadles, and four hotels: the Northern, the Pioneer, the Grand and the Salmo. School classes, which had been convened by Miss A. Doran in an old store in 1897 and then skipped a year, were being taught by Leonora Coghlan in May of 1899. By 1901, when Isabella Reith arrived to teach, only J.A. Bensons Northern and the Linklaters Salmo remained in business, and Beadles ran the only store in town.
Though it gladly catered to the prospectors and miners investigating the mineral shows in the neighbouring mountains, Salmo founded itself on forestry. Among the earliest outfits were the F.R. Rotter Lumber Company and Frank Lavins Salmo Lumber Mills. These operations were apparently fleeting, likely shutting down in 1896. In 1901 the Kootenay Shingle Mill Company established itself on the flats near the confluence of the Salmo and Erie Creek and imported a crew of Japanese workers which it housed separately from the rest of its employees. When the Davies-Sayward Mill and Land Company shut down its mill at Pilot Bay in 1903, many of its ex-employees moved to Salmo to work in the shingle mill which served as the settlements economic heart from until 1928. The Salmo Secondary School now occupies the site.
In 1931 West Kootenay Power and Light strung its 63kV No. 7 line up the Beaver Creek valley from its substation at Tadanac, bringing electricity to Fruitvale, Salmo and on to Ymir. Not even this source of cheap power could revive the Mill: the trees were gone, and Salmo had to content itself with distributing supplies to the miners in the surrounding mountains.
Jersey City and the Emerald
In 1896 traces of gold were discovered locked into the sulphide-infused quartz veins that webbed the quartzite and schist formations on Sheep Creek, a tributary of the Salmo, perhaps five miles downstream from the Village and east. Though the Yellowstone was staked on July 18th and the nearby Kreen on September 10th, the showings didnt excite interest until 1899 when mine development began. In 1900, while nearby claims such as the Motherlode, the Nugget, the Queen, and the Kootenay Belle were being evaluated, the owners of the Yellowstone installed a 10-stamp mill and began a two year career during which they waggoned down the Creek to Salmo and loaded on the N&FS. Their efforts grossed them $124,000. In 1902 the Yellowstone was exhausted and operations suspended. By that time, however, the Queen group of four claims was showing promise enough to attract a succession of lessees who by 1908 had equipped the mine with 20-stamp mill. That year American capital bought the mine.
It was not gold, however, that was to be the primary metal sought in this region. The aftermath of the Wall Street Panic of 1907 caused base metal prices to rise sharply. Sheep Creek, its valley and surrounds having been already noted for showing galena, became the focus of a miniature stampede in 1908 which set the mountains ringing with pick-axes striking stone and saw 200 properties staked or re-staked.
The best properties were the HB on the Aspen Creek tributary of the Sheep, and the Emerald, a few miles farther south, below the prominent stain on the high western slopes of Iron Mountain. For years the stain had been thought to indicate iron, but John Waldbeser discovered in 1906 that it was the signature of galena, an ore of lead, zinc and silver. Three years of development proved that Emeralds lode was considerable, and ran to 60% lead with traces of silver and of tungsten, a curious metal occurring in the wolframite that complicated the ore. While the owners of the Kootenay Belle worked most of 1909 with a 4-stamp mill to free gold from their property on Nevada Mountain facing Sheep Creek, Waldbeser got serious about developing the Emerald, setting up the Iron Mountain Limited to do so on June 7th, 1909. That year a crew of six mined 1400 tons, waggoned 1100 of it down a scary little track to Salmo and shipped it by rail to Trail for a yield of 382 tons of pure lead and almost 1700 ounces of silver. It was enough to keep the crew working and the operation struggled on to profit during the later years of World War One. In 1919 a concentration mill was raised.
While Waldbeser was examining the stain on Iron Mountain, a few miles away on a high tributary of Sheep Creek P.F. Horton and H.M. Billings were hammering at the rocks. In 1910 they located their HB property and quickly bonded it to Consolidated Mining and Smelting which in 1912 took 742 tons of the Mines lead-carbonate ore to Trail. Despite a high percentage of zinc the ore ran through the smelter well, but CM&S felt that it could do better by letting independents mine the HB. W.R. Salisbury took over in 1913, sending his ore to Trail. In 1915 an American company took over and exported the ore to a smelter where the zinc was a valued by-product of lead extraction. In the dark days following the Great War the HB went quiet.
The years of peak gold production in the Sheep Creek valley ended during the early years of W.W.I, but by then base metal mining was well established. Despite the drastic roll-back in base metal prices after the Great War the Emerald continued production. In the same Ministry of Mines report that noted that the Yellowstone Mining Company of Victoria was now working the Queen, the Emerald is said to have shipped 223 tons in 1923. As the 20s matured and the Emerald was reported as drilling in 1926, CM&S was watching with interest as the Victoria Syndicate drove tunnels into the HB. Aware that the Mine had already given up 3500 tons of zinc, 1300 of lead and some 14.7 thousand ounces of silver, the Company bought the property in 1927 as a reserve.
The year 1927 saw lots of activity in the region as the prices of lead and zinc rose towards their 1928 levels of £21 and £25.3 per ton, respectively. Near the HB the Aspen group began installing plant and developing a mine, the Black Jack, the Mortgage Lifter and the Lucky Boy, among others, were registered, F.M. Black of Vancouver was working the Kootenay Belle, the Queen group was being developed and Reno Gold Mines, Limited, had succeeded in gathering 17 claims into its portfolio and was picking into the Reno-Donnybrook. The next year, 1928, CM&S bought the galena-laden Silver Dollar near Salmo, Reno Mines struck a fine vein of gold-rich ore and Salmo Consolidated Mines, Limited, which had been formed in 1926 to acquire expired claims, was taken over by C.R. Blackburn of Toronto after it had collected an array of Sheep Creek claims.
In 1929 Reno Gold installed a 30 ton per day cyanide plant and in the last six months of the year gathered $37,000s worth of gold. At the Emerald the Radiore Company of Canada was carrying out an electrical survey to determine the extent of the lode. The results must have been encouraging for when the great forest fire of 1934 consumed the mines surface plant, the owners promptly rebuilt. Even as it collected 41 Crown-granted claims surrounding the Emerald, slipping market prices for base metals pushed Iron Mountain, Limited, towards insolvency during the 30s. Ironically, it was rescued by those very metals which from the start had compromised the worth of the Mines ore, tungsten and molybdenum.
As the World slid into war in the early days of September, 1939, activity at the Emerald was intense. The tools of modern warfare demanded new alloys in which the two metals were vital, and on August 17th, 1942, the federally owned Wartime Metals Corporation bought the Emerald, contracting CM&S to build a mill on site to concentrate the tungsten. CM&S had its subsidiary, West Kootenay Power, construct a substation to energize the mill which was brought into operation on August 1st, 1943, grinding an average of 200 tons per day. For reasons known only to the strategists of the time, Wartime shut down production on September 10th, never to work it again. Early in 1947 the wholly-owned Canadian Exploration Company (Canex) subsidiary of Placer Development Limited paid nearly a million dollars for the operation and commenced converting the old Wartime mill to extract the tungsten from 260 tons of ore per day. Milling began on June 12th of 1947.
With the on-set of the Cold War, tungsten again became strategically important, as did most of the base metals. Having identified lodes of exploitable ores on the Feeney, Jersey and Dodger properties, Canex decided to expand the scope of its operation and closed the mill on January 12th, 1949, to convert it to concentrate zinc and lead as well. Processing at 300 tons per day began again that March.
On May 1st of 1951 Canex paid the Canadian government the last instalment on the purchase of the Emerald. In a bit of creative financing, the Government then bought back the Mine, plus the adjacent tungsten-rich Dodger property, contracting Canex to mine and mill the ore with the aid of a new 250 ton tungsten recovery plant. When drilling revealed the potential of the Jersey and Feeney claims, Canex significantly increased its mills capacities, installing crushers and floatation cells in the old mill to refine the process. At the same time the company opened a pit mine on the Jersey, some 1100 metres south of the Emerald, and began to load out the lead-zinc ore. On October 1st, 1952, Canex bought the Government out.
Rather than commute daily from Salmo or Erie, workers had early on opted for staying in a camp near the mine. Crude at first, as Canex committed its fortune to the operation the camp improved into a little settlement of 150 dwellings called Jersey after the mining property on which most of it perched. By the 50s it was equipped with all the modern conveniences necessary to attract workers and their families.
By 1956 Canex had streamlined the operation to the point that seven huge conveyors moved ores from the mines into the mills. The tungsten concentrates were delivered to the U.S. government to be added to strategic stockpiles, presumably, while lead and zinc concentrates went to the Bunker Hill refinery in Kellogg, Idaho, and the Anaconda smelter at Black Eagle, Montana, respectively.
The Feeney ran out of economical tungsten ore in 1955 and was shut down. The Dodger was mined out by 1957 and on July 31st, 1958 the Emerald and the tungsten mill quit. Solely on the strength of the Jerseys lead-zinc ores, Canex worked on, sending 407 tons of concentrate to Kellogg in 1964, 417 two years later. On September 1st, 1971, however, operations ceased. When no-one stepped in to take over the project, the mills were salvaged and on September 29th and 30th of 1973, the Ritchie Brothers auctioneers sold what they could of Jersey town, the remainder being crushed and removed, the site reportedly now reclaimed. As interest in the site again waxes at the turn-of-the-millennium, little remains.
In 1946 CM&S came back to the HB and began explorations. Tunnels were punched into the lode and in 1950 a crew of 36 sent 2900 tons of ore to Trail by truck, nearly doubling that the next year with the help of the first diesel-powered mining locomotive to run underground in B.C. A 1,000-ton mill was completed in early 1953 which by 1958 had been fine-tuned to intake 38,000 tons per month. In 1964 the projects 121 men living in HB Camp or commuting from Salmo dug and processed 478,000 tons, sending the concentrate to Trail by tractor-trailer. On November 1st, 1966, Cominco shut the operation down.
The Skyway to Creston
Between Salmo and Creston the Crowsnest Highway climbs up through the Kootenay Pass to reach the highest elevation along its entire length. For some cyclists parts of this arduous, endless climb make an exhausting walk, pushing a bike and all. So cyclists at Salmo have to think for a minute; 22 kilometres of sometimes steep strain on the Kootenay Skyway, or the picturesque No. 3A, with the delights of Nelson, a relaxing lake voyage, a nice, easy roll along Kootenay Lakes scenic eastern shore
Im not saying dont go for the gusto, Im just saying that there is an alternative to the fatigue and muscle cramps of the Kootenay Pass.
Having decided to leave Salmo southbound, the traveller has an interesting choice. South from the wye intersection, across Erie Creek on a 1979 span, Highway No. 3 is wide-shouldered and smooth as it runs with No. 6 for fifteen kilometres down the Salmos valley. A couple of miles out of the Village, engineers found it necessary to trim back the toe of a little hill of stained slate to lay in the roadbed. Perhaps ten metres high, the vertical cut weeps constantly, water sheened drools of ruddy-sienna and ochre, versicolouring to white the swirls of blacks with a slight change of light. That common rock can be so beautiful is amazing.
Not ten kilometres from Salmo, at the mouth of Sheep Creek, an enormous earthen rampart arises like a Renaissance fortress on the right. This is an environmental nightmare-in-waiting, Canexs old tailings pond. Effluents from the outfits mills and mines were flumed down from Jersey and dumped here to settle. Settle they have, a gargantuan lump of powdered rock leaching heavy metals into the Salmos ground waters as fast as it can. The old lead-zinc mill apparently stood nearby.
A less hectic path out of Salmo is the old No. 3 which, calling itself the Golfport Road, heads east out of town via Main Street, past Salmo Foods grocereteria. This quiet, eight kilometre-long strip of suburban asphalt loops along the foot of Nevada Mountain past sunny pony pastures, moose marshes, acreages new and old, and the bizarre notion of an aerodrome sharing its 1,050 yard long turf runway with a few fairways of the local golf course. One shudders at the image of what havoc the concurrence of a Tiger Woods-ish driven Titlist with a gingerly landing Cessna could wreak. I saw no evidence of disaster, a credit, doubtless, to the fore!-sight of combining the aerodrome terminal with the club house where, presumably, attentive staff co-ordinate tee-offs with take-offs. Established as an intermediate field on the Trans-Canada Airway in the 1930s, the aerodrome is owned by Transport Canada but has been leased by the Village since 1955. Apparently deciding that the few aircraft using the strip left plenty of time between flights, the Village established the golf course and adopted, reports T.M. McGrath in the second edition of his History of Canadian Airports (Lugus Publications, Toronto, 1992), a ground rule unique in golfdom that requires players to clear the fairway at the approach of an airplane, allowing the pilot to play through, as it were. Southward, Golfport crosses Sheep Creek on a war surplus Bailey bridge and ends in a Tee intersection with the No. 3 which has drifted down the Salmos left bank, past ranches here and there.
At Burnt Flats junction (610m) No. 3 turns left into the valley of the South Salmo, leaving No. 6 to make its way a further ten kilometres south to the Boundary at Nelway. This stretch of the Highway, over the top of the Nelson Range through the Kootenay Pass to Creston, is one of the newest pieces of the Crowsnest Highway, having been officially opened on August 15th, 1964. For a cyclist, it is a challenge. For a couple of easy kilometres in the lower South Salmos valley the Highway traces the Dewdney Trail. But where Dewdney climbed up to the Pass via the tricky Lost Creek valley, the Highway continues up the South Salmo for several miles, climbing ever higher on the valleys northern slopes. Almost into Washington at the southern jut of Lost Mountain, the Highway cuts left to the Stagleap Creek valley and claws its way ever up and across the talus slopes. For some cyclists, perhaps a bit breathless after the long haul up the South Salmo, the 20 kilometre-long Stagleap climb is the most arduous stretch of the Crowsnest Highway. Slowly the incline steepens from six, through seven and on, near the top where the air is the rarest, rises to a lung-searing eight percent, sending cyclists searching their sprocket sets and chain-wheels in vain for a greater ratio. Across the Stagleaps defile the revetments of Ripple Mountain step toward the sky, deflecting its burden of heat down onto the Highway. Road signs warn inform that this is Woodland Caribou habitat, these stands of Alpine larch and spruce. The signs are permanent and the Caribou are not. In the summer they are safely in their high pastures, out of sight of the No. 3. Here and there by the roadside, little houses perched atop up-ended sections of shiny, spirally-corrugated giant culvert shelter the recoilless cannons which avalanche control crews use to shell winter snows off of the slopes.
Even though it might have been 30 degrees Celsius at the Salmo valley, by the time cyclists wheeze the last few metres up into the 1774m-high summit of Kootenay Pass, each exhalation condenses into a cold wraith of vapour in the chilling air above their heads. Suddenly its jacket weather. Thunder grumbles too close for comfort. Just over the apex, on the right, the hanger-sized MoTH vehicle shed tries to hide behind its mountain of sand; a prop supporting the Ministrys boast that the Skyway is the highest all-season road in Canada. Opposite, dark Bridal Lake and its little summer picnic park. Information boards tell about caribou and cougars and remind visitors that grizzly bears, too, reside here-abouts. Cyclists take their comestibles and stroll through the misting piny air to the log cabin picnic shelter that clients of the Department of Corrections built in the 1970s on the marge of the Lake. Leaning on the railing of the veranda munching on gouda and rye, the lucky few watch the sniffling little drizzle metamorphose into flakes whirling in white frenzy above the Lake until gravity coaxes them into the black waters.
Or, it could be mid-May and the thick shroud of snow deadens sound and restricts visitors to the roadway or the few shovelled areas.
East from Bridal Lake the Highway is joined again by Dewdneys Trail and together they tip over into the Summit Creek trench. Shoulders awash in pea-gravel have cyclists fighting to maintain control for the first few miles, but one rarely has to pedal as the grade steps on down into the middle Kootenay Valley on long six and seven percent descents for 35 glorious kilometres.
On the right, the gorge of Summit Creek and across it on the far mountains slope, battlefields of mangled greenery mutely mark the passing of a timber company. A pair of Stellars Jays in flight, iridescent blue and black patrol the Creek of molten jade frothing into white chartreuse where it boils over rocks in its bed.
On the left, perhaps halfway down, the tumble-down shack identified as Jordans Cabin slowly rots in a clearing it shares with the white-crossed grave of its owner, Edward Jordan. A reclusive mountain man, Jordan is said to have been connected with the nearby Bayonne group of propertiesBayonne, Oxford and Columbusupon which G. Harrison and F. Risdon discovered a quartz vein showing free gold in 1901. By that fall a Spokane-based party had bonded the Group for $40,000 and had a dozen men at work developing the properties. The neighbouring Echo group was staked about the same time, as well as the Montana and Sultana claims on nearby Twelve-Mile Creek. The next year, 1902, the Byjoe and the Skookum were staked just south. By 1904 the Bayonne group had been expanded to include 10 claims and was taken over that year by a Butte, Montana, syndicate which did some development work but, despite the fact that in 1901 the government had built a trail into the area from the Salmo valley, was discouraged the propertys isolation. The claims were poked at for decades, changing hands, readily giving up samples of ore which tantalized but never inspired serious investment. In 1929, however, New York financier J.B. Gerrard took an interest in the Groups now nine claims and sent in B.N. Sharp with a crew to examine them. Sharp built a rough trail in from the Salmo valley and the next year had his men build a bunkhouse. The Depression was deepening, however, and interest waned in the Bayonne until 1940 when its potential was again investigated in light of Wars demands. It was finally adjudged to be of little value.
Beyond Jordans cabin, past the traffic control gates, the Blaze Creek Rest Area rests in its grove of stringy-barked cedars.
As its grade lessens toward the bottom of the Nelsons, the Highway leaps across Summit Creek on a 1960 concrete decked span. Immediately on the left is the former Summit Creek Campground, now reduced to a recreational area where one can hike across a suspension bridge to view examples of the rock-work with which Dewdneys Chinese labourers hung his trail on the sides of mountains and stepped it over creeks.
Out of the gap between Creston Mountain and Mount Midgely to the north, Summit Creek, No. 3 and Dewdneys old Trail spill out of the Selkirks onto the wide, lush, level bottoms of the Upper Kootenay Rivers valley. These are the famous Kootenayor, locally, CrestonFlats. Ten kilometres away the Town of Creston reclines on the eastern valley bench, supervising the unravelling of the River into several separate braids which begin to individually seek the path of least resistance across the Flats. North five kilometres, waving reeds and rushes conceal the lazy transformation of river into fen and then into Duck Lake; beyond, majestic Kootenay Lake rocks in the crèche of its valley.
When Dewdney first saw the Upper Kootenays valley in the summer of 1865, the whole area was a quagmire of brush-choked islands of mud ever reforming themselves in the channels of the River reaching for the Lake. Walking his trail five miles north along Mount Midgelys toe to the far tip of Leach Lake, Dewdney finally found his crossing. Recruiting David McLoughlin and HBC money to establish a current-driven cable ferry across the main channel, the Trail makers corduroyed approaches and pitched short spans across streams and ponds. With much effort a transient path was established across the valleys bottom and up Duck Creek on the other side, crossing over the front line of the Purcell Mountains and down Arrow Creek to the Goat River upstream from its gorge. This section of the Trail across the Flats, annually washed out by the Spring-swollen River, was the telling argument which convinced the Colonial government to abandon the route east from the Columbia.
Freed from the confines of the Summit Creeks valley, the Highway bends southerly along the bottom shelf of Mount Creston for a mile or two before edging out onto the Flats. A little way out onto the valley floor the West Creston Road departs the Highway on the south, and in a grand ten-kilometre cul-de-sac explores part of the valleys renowned wildlife refuge, rejoining the Highway as Nicks Island Road on the other side of the old River channel. This is a lovely ride on a bike, like a wild part of Holland with dikes and levies protecting the paddocks and fertile fields from the Rivers flood. A couple of kilometres down West Creston the Wildlife Associations interpretative centre hunkers low-walled and red-roofed, nucleus since 1974 of a web of wooden catwalks radiating a little way out into 26 square miles of wet-lands that have been protected since 1968. In the refuge area, much of which has been donated in perpetuity from their scattered reserve by the Creston Band of the Ktunaxa (kToon-ah-hah)KootenayPeoples, the untamed sea of swamp grass shelters myriad little lives, some of the most evident of which are the 240-odd species of birds both resident and seasonal migrants. From the Centre guided canoe excursions out into the marshy maze bring the visitor eye to eye with the Nature.
Not a kilometre past the turnoff to the interpretative centre, a long, flat-decked 1958 concrete trestle carries the Highway over the Old Kootenay Channel. Sandhill cranes and Great Blue herons, motionless, wait for a frog or a fish to make a mistake; overhead, a Golden eagle cruises the thermals. A dozen species of ducks can be counted. Two kilometres on, past Nicks Island Road, a double span of silver steel trusses have bridged the Kootenay River since 1962; odd, as the one farther west is of an earlier date. Washout?
Nearing the eastern edge of the Flats, grain and hay fields on either side, the Highway over-passes Lower Wynndel Road, announced by a sign indicating access to highway No. 21.
The No. 21 offers an attractive option to the hustle of No. 3 nearing Creston. A southern continuation of the over-passed Wynndel Road, 21 is built mostly on the old Bedlington and Nelson Railway right-of-way and locally called KVfor Kootenay Valley RailwayRoad. Its a pretty little rural route for a kilometre or three approaching Creston. One can angle east off 21 at the John Deere-dealing Junction Machinery and Supply and climb up the Bench to the Highway via Valley View Drive past the three pint-sized elevators of Piper Farms and the Valley View Motel. The Town reaches a few other streets out to KV, the last one on the south being Erikson, on which is located Scotties Campground, across from the brewery. South from Erikson on KV twelve or so kilometres is the Boundary at Rykerts where John Charles Rykert had been sent in 1883 as Collector of Customs for the Kootenays. Somewhere in the neighbourhood the lost Hudsons Bay post of Fort Flatbow hides in the thickets.
From the Wynndel overpass the Crowsnest Highway continues straight on, mounting to the valleys eastern bench through a deep cut in the black/green quartzite-like rock stained with ochre and iron and cracked with veins of white quartz. Still rising, the Highway under-passes the 1963 span of the British Columbia Southerns mainline and meets 3A in a tee intersection. There it right-angles southward to roar a couple of kilometres past machine shops and car lots, the Pair-a-Dice RV Park and Campground and a motel or three to lance into the heart of Creston (611m).