Webspace generously donated by synercom/edi
Thank your for visiting.  If you enjoy this site
 please make a donation.

BC Archives # D-07821: The Old Arrastra with Sloan Range in background
BC Archives #D-07821

Bralorne and Pioneer Mine
& Ogden & Bradian

The Early Years



BC Archives # I-29086: View of Bralorne Mine Bldgs & No. 1 Townsite
BCArchives # I-29086
Houses in Bralorne Townsite No. 2 looking up Noel Creek Photo: E. 'Andy' Cleven
Bralorne was once the richest gold mine in Canada's history and is one of the world's deepest delvings - the main "stope" (horizontal entry) in the front centre of the picture on the left is at elevation 3400 ft. above sea level; inside the mountain the deepest parts of the mine go to over a mile below sea level. When Bralorne and Pioneer Mines were merged, their tunnel systems were integrated although it was not until recently that it was discovered that the discrepancies in the tunnel surveys had concealed the fact that a cubic mile of mountain in between the two mines had not been explored! Throughout the vicinity of Bralorne, the presence of hidden air shafts and other old openings into the mine make casual hiking extremely dangerous, so if you pay a visit be very careful while walking in the bush.  The valley's busiest times were from the 1930s to the early '60s, and at its peak the population of the Bridge River goldfields towns was well over 10,000 - larger than today's Lillooet, and comparable to Squamish of only a few years ago.  Most of the Pioneer townsite was torn down immediately following the mine's closing in 1971 (to keep the hippies from taking it over), but Bralorne has hung on in the form of a retirement and recreation town - with huge skiing potential - and throughout the area, abandoned side roads lead to older dwellings and industrial buildings.  Both pictures below are of the No. 1 Townsite, which contained most of the major commercial buildings as well as the Royal Canadian Legion, Community Hall, and fire hall; the workyard of the main stope is in the foreground in the picture on the right, and immediately below and to the right of the camera in the picture on the left, which was taken at the junction of the main Bralorne road with the one leading down to the Cadwallader Creek bridge and the mine's main yard (and, before recent improvements, to the wild track of the Hurley Main road to the Pemberton Valley).  Note that the name "Bridge River" on the road sign refers to the BC Hydro townsite at Shalalth

  Strange as it may seem for such a remote if once-thriving town, but Bralorne is a crossroads, even if two of the roads eventually lead to nowhere; well, not quite nowhere, but they do fade off into "goat tracks", one towards McGillivray Pass, the other towards the Hurley Main Road; you can still get through on the latter, at the risk of your muffler and an engine mount or two.  From the signpost at left, which stands where the main road from Gold Bridge and Brexton leaves Bralorne's "suburb" of Ogden, is at the head of a steep descent to the Cadwallader Creek bridge and the mine gates and workyards, the main road into town continuing to become the main street hidden between the buildings at centre left.  Town continues up the side of the valley as visible at right, with a further more residential area - "Second Townsite", which also held the hospital and school and church - around the next bend in the valley; a switchback beyond that leads to "Third Townsite", usually known as Bradian, and eventually to the then-busy town of Pioneer Mine, which was the first of the big deep hardrock mines in the Bendor Range.   All these views are much-changed today due to the disappearance of many buildings, and the logging of the main mountainsides visible at left.  The view at right was taken from up the mountainside in an area known as Honeymoon Hollow, which was outside the minetown boundaries and still has a number of private residences; the four-by-four track that continues on from here leads to Hurley Falls and was the original route into the Hurley Main before the new road was built over Gwyneth Lake from Gold Bridge.

BC Archives # D-03831: Original Lorne Mine on Cadwallader Creek
BC Archives # D-03831
BC Archives # A-09595: Noel Cabin above Bralorne
BC Archives # A-09595
BC Archives # I-29085: Train entering Bralorne Mine Main Portal
BC Archives # I-29085
The Bridge River Country remained virtually unexplored by non-natives until near the end of the 19th Century, its mountainous ramparts and canyoned gates keeping out idle adventurers as well as the many, many prospectors who would otherwise have explored the valley for the motherlode of Fraser placer gold that was believed to lie in the Bridge River headwaters.  Even today the difficulty of physical approach to the valley helps preserve tits isolation to a certain degree, despite the building of new roads into the district via the Bridge River Canyon and Railway Pass in addition to the old goldfields road via Mission Pass from Shalalth.  But also keeping out prospectors and settlers rather more directly than mere physical obstacles was Chief Hunter Jack of Shalalth, who claimed the valley as his own and is said to have been promised it as his personal domain during a visit by British Admiral Seymour in the 1870s, who was one of his many high-class outfitting clients.  Hunter Jack's legendary placer mine was said to be in the Bridge River Country, which was the reason he so jealously protected his territory from prospectors and what would follow, although certain individuals such as Arthur Noel and Lazack Lajoie took up these activities in the time of Hunter Jack's dominion over the valley, which ended by his death at Seton Lake under mysterious circumstances c.1919.  The cabin at top left is said to have been the earliest built in the upper Bridge River basin and was located in the Gun Creek area, near Minto City.  As it is rough-built in the Indian style,  it was likely of Hunter Jack's own construction - unless it was one of the cabins of first non-native settler, Lazack Lajoie, although his residence was supposed to be over by Little Gun Lake.  Hunters and prospectors in the valley had to pay their respects to Hunter Jack, if they were tolerated at all - and many were not.  During the gold fever in the region surrounding the development of the Golden Cache Mine at Lillooet in 1898, a new wave of prospecting talent began to roam into the area, which was barely on the map for the first time - literally; older maps show rough-drawn lakes and little more, based on hearsay but no actual surveys.  Placer rewards were rich in the region, but ultimately investigations of hard rock potentials had spectacular results.  The picture at upper left is of the first drift of the Lorne-Pioneer Mine in 1898 on the banks of Cadwallader Creek, which was the foundation of the huge Bralorne-Pioneer Mine complex for which the valley became famous.  Pictures further below are of the main stope and entrance portal of the Bralorne Mine, which was developed in the 1930s a few miles downstream from the original Pioneer Mine, major development of which had taken place just prior to the onset of World War I.  Bralorne's wealth was vast - three hundred and seventy million 1930s dollars in half a dozen years, and it kept on producing until 1971 when it was shut down due to engineering difficulties concerning the mine's increasing depth - over a mile below sea level, from an entry at 3400' above.  It has recently been re-opened because of engineering advances in the region, as well as changes in gold markets and resurveying of the subsurface geology in the region.
Artie Phair Photo: View of Bralorne Main Buildlings & No. 1 Townsite
Artie Phair Postcard
BC Archives # C-08636: Jnctn Sign & View of Bralorne No. 1 Townsite
BC Archives # C-08636



View of Bralorne 2nd Townsite looking towards Noel Creek Photo: E. 'Andy' Cleven
Photo: E. "Andy" Cleven
BC Archives # I-29085: Train entering Bralorne Mine Main Portal
Photo: Artie Phair postcard
BC Archives # C-08635: Main Stope of the Bralone Mine
BC Archives # C-08635
BC Archives # C-08637:  View of Bralorne Mine Main Buildings
BC Archives # C-08637



















BC Archives # I-29094
BC Archives # I-29094

BC Archives # I-29096
BC Archives # I-29096
BC Archives # I-29097
BC Archives # I-29097

BC Archives # F-08584 Officials with gold brick from Bralorne Mine
BC Archives # F-08584
View of Noel Range from above Pioneer (?) Photo: E. 'Andy' Cleven
Photo: E. "Andy" Cleven
Aerial view of Bralorne - 1st to 3rd Townsites Photo by Kat
Aerial pic from Photos by Kat

Aerial view of Bralorne - 1st to 3rd Townsites
Aerial pic from Photos by Kat







 









 
 Entrance to Pioneer Mine, BC

Pioneer Mine

BC Archives # I-29087: View of Pioneer Mine Main Buildings
BC Archives # I-29087
Artie Phair Photo: View of Pioneer Mine Main Buildings
Artie Phair Postcard


This is how the entry to Pioneer Mine looked in its heyday; I'll post a parallel view of it as it stands today (in ruins) shortly. The residential and commercial parts of the town lay beyond the buildings visible, as well as above on the left; Pioneer lies in a narrowing of the valley of Cadwallader Creek and its upper neighbourhoods verge on the alpine meadows and flanking ridge of the Bendor Range's Mount Ferguson. Pioneer was the first of the great Bridge River mines to boom and build a company town - in the 1920s - and eventually was merged with the nearby Bralorne diggings and townsites, to which community it was effectively the uppermost neighbourhood. Although some of the mine structures still (just barely) stand, nearly all of the townsite's residential and commercial buildings were demolished at the town's abandonment in the early'70s - to prevent a takeover by hippie promoters in Vancouver who wanted to settle Bralorne-Pioneer's emptied houses with pioneers of the counterculture variety. Since then, Bralorne has been eyed repeatedly for its high skiing potentials and expanses of develpable land but its isolation from major highways kept it a semi-inhabited ghost town with a small core of permanent residents and vacation owners - and a very proud identity rooted in the history of the mines and their towns. As logging activity expanded in the region even as tourism plans were repeatedly stymied, houses in Bralorne were bought up by visiting loggers and the town's population has grown a bit, although it's still pretty quiet. Recent re-opening of the main Bralorne mine in the midst of a general increase in mining activity in the Bridge River Country are expected to herald a rebirth of the town of Bralorne. Skiing and other forms of tourism are bound to spur further growth - market pressures and the area's proximity to the Whistler-Pemberton tourism region and the recent promise that the once-forbidding gates of Railway Pass would soon be kept open year-round to give the Bridge River Country the greater access to the nearby Coast and Highway 99 Corridor that it has always wanted.



Artie Phair Postcard

Andy Cleven Photo



 
 
 


 
 


The Mines Hotel ("The Main Stope")

BC Archives # E-05212: Mines Hotel, Ogden (Bralorne)
BC Archives # E-05212

I was curiously elated to find this picture in the BC Provincial Archives - I was one of the last guests in this hotel, prior to its accidental destruction.  It's not a remarkable building, nor is it very old.  It's not even standing anymore, having burned down around 1984 in a middle-of-the-night furnace explosion.  But the Mines Hotel was imbued with the spirit of the Bridge River goldfields country until its very end, and perhaps better than anywhere else in the rambling ghost-town gave visitors a taste of what life was like during the heyday of the Bridge River mines.  Located between bends in the canyon road just outside Bralorne's company-town limits, the Mines was the closest bar to thousands of hungry miners, who dubbed it "the Main Stope".  In tribute to this name, above the mock hearth in the bar (there was no fireplace per se) was a toy mine, with miniature carts and miners with pickaxes, rock crushers, and sluices.  Innumerable business deals were struck here, and nearly anyone who ever visited or lived in the Bridge River country passed through its doors.  The view from the plain front stoop was incomparable - the green slope of the forested Noel Range immediately opposite, with Mt. Sloan towering off to the right.  Like thousands of others, I have sharp memories of standing outside the Mines, both drunk and sober, on hot summer days and stellar autumn nights, taking in the mountain scenery and the rich flavour of the place.  I don't think there was a bar like it anywhere in the world, not even in the rest of the Bridge River Country.  I stayed in one of its plain 1930s-era rooms about a year before it burned down - actually the one just to the left of the fire escape - a privilege I will always cherish, as well as remember with some sadness for the loss of this seedy but wondrous old miner's bar.




The Old Arrastra

Artie Phair Photo: The Old Arrastra with Dixon Range in background
The famous "Arrastra", or water-driven rock-crusher, today lies on its side in the undergrowth but was a noted symbol of the Bridge River goldfields for many years, dating from the earliest years of the mine's workings (which is why I chose its picture and setting for the top of this page. During the first eight years of the mine's opening in the early1930's, the value of the gold ore extracted was over $370,000,000, and the extraordinary quality of the ore - rock quartz studded with huge nuggets - was without equal. Engineering difficulties to do with the mine's increasing depth led to its closing in 1971, although advances in technology and changes in world gold markets have led to the mine's recent re-opening. During its heyday, Bralorne-Pioneer was the largest town in the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District with around 10,000 residents (more than today's Lillooet). Both these photos are postcards by pioneer photographer Artie Phair; the picture on the left is of the main mine buildings and the "first townsite" of Bralorne's chain of three that extend up the Cadwallader Valley to Pioneer. The view of the arrastra featured at the top of this page, with Mt. Sloan and the Frost Fiend behind (Bralorne is immediately below), and is perhaps the most evocative image of the old rock-mill:
BC Archives # D-07821: The Old Arrastra with Sloan Range in background
BC Archives # D-07821




 

The Red Hawk Mine

BC Archives # G-00618: Dump Car at stope of RedHawk Mine, Bridge River goldfields
BC Archives #G-00618
Not all the mining activity in the region was monopolized by the big companies.  The picture above is representative of the many smaller outfits, both hard-rock and placer, which made the region a dynamic one for small miners and venture prospectors - who still can be found at workings in hidden bits of the basin.  I'm not sure where the Red Hawk Mine was, but by the look of the mountainside in behind I'm guessing it to be high up on the sides of the Piebiter or Hawthorne Creek drainages upstream from Pioneer (I'll check this later).

The Mountains of the Bridge River Country

Mt. Sloan
Mt. Dickson
Hurley Range
The Bendor
 
 
 
 


Nature Studies
BC Scenery & History
Chinook Jargon
Clevens & Periards
Poetry etc.
e-mail me! (replace "_at_" in address with @ symbol)