The tunnels cut through solid granite, and are part of the trail system - remember to bring a flashlight - It is pitch black and there is a little water seepage form above.
Othello Tunnels Provincial Park

This park contains a 135 hectare land base. It is a popular tourist attraction for the town of Hope and provides viewing, walking, fishing, and picnicking opportunities. The hiking trail links to the historic Hope-Nicola Cattle Trail. The engineer Andrew McCullough was an avid reader of Shakespearean literature, and used characters such as Lear, Jessica, Portia, Iago, Romeo & Juliet to name stations of the Coquihalla section of the line.

In the early 1900’s, the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to link the Kootenay region with the BC coast by rail. Andrew McCulloch was hired as the chief engineer in May 1910. He had been involved in many CPR projects, including the Spiral Tunnels near Revelstoke.

McCulloch took on the challenging task of building the railway over three major mountain ranges. The Coquihalla subdivision included 38 miles from the Coquihalla Summit to the junction with the CPR mainline across the Fraser River from Hope. This section boasts the most expensive mile of railway track in the world: $300,000 in 1914! The construction was done almost exclusively by hand with the assistance of a few horse drawn scrapers and some black powder. His assistant engineers named the railway “McCulloch’s Wonder”.

The greatest challenge of this route was the Coquihalla gorge, just east of Hope, where the river had cut a 300-foot-deep channel in solid granite. Other engineers had suggested a mile-long tunnel by-passing the gorge, but McCulloch chose to build directly through it. Hanging in the gorge in a wicker basket, McCulloch surveyed the canyon for a straight line of tunnels that could be dug simultaneously. Cliff ladders, suspension bridges and ropes allowed workers to complete what is, to this day, regarded as a spectacular engineering feat.

Many of the passengers on the Coquihalla line came expressly to see and photograph the station boards and to send postcards from the stations’ post offices as a souvenir. This added an ironic touch of gentility to this adventurous journey.

The Kettle Valley Railway was officially opened on July 31, 1916. The line operated both freight and passenger service between Vancouver and Nelson, but the operation was plagued with snow and rock slides. In a two year period in the 1930’s the line operated for only a few weeks.

On November 23, 1959, a washout was reported just north of the tunnels. The 400-foot washout was too large to be filled in one day, and numerous other washouts added to the troubles of the maintenance crews. The line was closed and never reopened; it was officially abandoned in July of 1961. The tunnels and surrounding area became a provincial recreation area in May of 1986.

Much of the modern four lane Coquihalla Highway is built upon the original rail bed of the Kettle Valley Railway. Travelling at modern highway speeds it is difficult to imagine the formidable task of constructing a rail route through this rugged section of BC.

As you drive along the highway, you may notice some small signs in the shape of an old steam locomotive, with Shakespearean names. These signs commemorate the approximate locations of the Kettle Valley Railway stations along the highway.

Coquihalla Gorge - with trees clinging to the side , above the river.
One of the Tunnels cutting through the gorge - Heather Lee standing below the hanging rocks of the cliff face.
Fall on the trails of the Othello Provincial Park- as the last leaves are falling
View of Cultus lake and Chilliwack Valley from Mt Thom
Submitted to Our Canada Magazine -  Accepted – published Sept 2013 issue

Destination, Chilliwack, British Columbia 

The short trail climbs up the hill between the alder trees at a moderate incline rising about 100 meters. You will find it a moderate climb, but you might need to stop to catch your breath if you haven’t been doing much walking lately.  The amazing view from Mt Thom in Chilliwack BC is worth the effort. You will be greeted by the green corn and hay fields stretching between the mountains that enclose the valley.

I live in Chilliwack, I hike the trails, fish the rivers, sail the lakes, and have enjoyed many exciting adventures since moving here. The Tourism Chilliwack web site is www.thegreatoutside.com which is what you will find in Chilliwack.

Chilliwack is a city with a population of 80,000 in the Fraser valley. This a major dairy and agricultural area in British Columbia, located 100 kilometers east of Vancouver. The area was populated by as many as 40,000 Stolo Indians, 10,000 years ago.  Chilliwack is  still home today to the descendents  of these original inhabitants.

 In 1857 gold was discovered in BC and by 1858 up to 30,000 miners had arrived and travelled to the goldfields by way of steamships , up the Fraser River to Chilliwack. By the 1860’s small farms had been established in the Valley to supply the gold seekers with produce and the township of Chilliwack was incorporated in 1873.

There are dozens of trails in the Chilliwack Area varying from 12km steep mountain hikes to the flat rotary trail along the Chilliwack River.  The Rotary trail is great for viewing the fall run of spawning salmon. You will find trail access is by two wheel drive roads to most trail heads. The Rotary trail which is right in the town of Chilliwack is 15 km, and has multiple access points so you can walk 1 km or 5 km or bike the whole trail. You can pick up trail maps at the Tourism Chilliwack office or on the website.

The trails provide you with opportunities to view, Bald eagles, song birds, ducks, and wood peckers amongst other wildlife.  The Blue Heron Nature preserve trails allow for viewing a nesting site for the great blue Heron. The Herons start nesting in March and can be spotted in the fields, and along the creeks and ponds, hunting for food for the growing chicks.

The world’s largest gathering of bald eagles occurs in the Fraser Valley, you will see eagles perching in trees, along the farm roads in the area.  The eagle fest in Mid-November hosts lectures and events , and you can view  the  1000’s of eagles by taking a boat tour of the Harrison River from Kilby Heritage farm

The eagles are attracted by the five species of Salmon that spawn in the Fraser River and its tributaries.  If you are looking for the thrill of a lifetime book a fishing charter for Sturgeon. Sturgeon reach up to 1000 lbs and 12 feet in length. Hooking one of these giants or just enjoying a day on the secluded areas of the Fraser River is a great adventure you will remember for the rest of your life.

Come check out ”The Great Outside” in Chilliwack

Resources for Chilliwack:

Chilliwack Tourism http://www.tourismchilliwack.com/

Sport Fishing BC – Fraser River Charters -  http://www.bcsportfishinggroup.com/

Hancock Wildlife Foundation – All about Eagles  http://www.hancockwildlife.org/