KLR on the Kettle Valley Railroad June 2010
With a loose plan and 4 days off a friend and I set off to ride as much of the old Kettle Valley Railway (and Columbia and Western Railway) as possible. I was fascinated by the history, and sheer magnitude of the work involved, creating this rail line through the rugged landscape. For a brief history check out this link: http://www.bcadventure.com/adventure/explore/ok/trails/kettle.htm
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We departed Calgary and burned pavement south on Hwy 22 and east on Hwy 3 to Castlegar. We set Up Camp at; http://www.castlegarrvpark.com/, just south of the town on Hwy 3 (up the hill on the left about 4 km. from the lights at Columbia Avenue.) The owner was good about directions to the trailhead at the north end of town.
To find it go north on Columbia Avenue from the junction of hwy. 3 (there is a Chevron gas station on the Corner). At the bridge take the ramp on the right that goes underneath to Arrow Lakes drive to Keenlyside dam. At the corner where the road turns right to the dam, stay left onto the gravel. The trail starts behind a large steel building ahead on the left. The rails run for about a few hundred yards past the entrance gate before disappearing for the duration.
At Work the morning of departure, but ready to play!
Quick stop at the Frank Slide on Hwy #3, smoke break for the BMW pilot.
Salmo Pass late June 2010
Castlegar from the viewpoint south of town on Hwy #3.
CastlegarRVpark and Campground south on Hwy#3 Just behind the office across the marsh.
Night shot of the camp spot at Castlegar
Playing with the camera remote after a long day of pavement pounding.
It was easy running on the gravel roadbed that is wide enough for a Smart car or a GS adventure. There are well-maintained trestles with spectacular views of Lower Arrow Lake along the first stretch. There is even a picnic table at one wide spot with lots of room to park off the trail. The first tunnel is short and dry with good surface.
The Trailhead on the north east end of Castlegar near the Keenlyside Dam.
<o:p>Honest Officer the sign said so.....</o:p>
<o:p>Just inside the Gate near Castlegar, the rails still there.</o:p>
The second tunnel is about ½ a km long, curves along its length, making it very dark. It is also very wet with water pouring down inside from the ceiling and a slippery cobblestone like surface. Great fun In other words. You pass under the highway south of the tunnel and through another tunnel.
Above Arrow Lake on the KVR, beautiful in the morning.
One of many trestles along Arrow lake
Another gratuitous Trestle shot
Excellent vantage point overlooking Lower Arrow Lake from the Kettle Vally Railway, (Columbia and Western at this point actually)
Little reminders of the railine along the way, I left it where it was taking the photo and the memory only.
One of the short Tunnels on the first stretch along Arrow Lake.
New guy action shot
Can you see his Grin! We were having a great time.
The longest tunnel on the KVR system. Dark even with high beams, very wet, water pouring down all the way through and slippery and rough.
Stopped for a picture before forging ahead.
A bit weird not seeing the end after already riding for a few minutes.
Daylight at the end of the longest tunnel.
The trail is easy until you get to a huge washout. Now that Smart Car or GS Adventure might be a bad Idea.:lol3
There is a bypass built down to the left, made for bicycles. The KLR made it down and back up without too much trouble, being the lighter and pannier free of the bikes. The GS made it down to the midway point onto a little wooden bridge with somewhat more stress and difficulty. There was no way that it was making it up the 1-foot wide dirt path with the Tourtech panniers on it. The path up was steep crossed with tree roots and rocks. It had guard rails made from saplings and would have maybe just slowed the GS on its 500-foot plunge, should it fall over. I held the front brake and stepped on the rear brake while sitting on the flimsy railing while my friend took off the panniers. The GS had far more aggressive knobbies but still kept spinning out on the trail going up. The KLR had just walked up on the stock Dunlops. With the panniers sitting down on the bridge and me pushing using the racks we finally got the BMW to the top. I had been in such a hurry to go help my buddy with the GS that I had left all my gear on. Now I got to take the jacket and helmet off and clean out the dirt from all the tire spinning.
At the center of the "V" shaped bypass looking north. It was steeper than it looked.
Some proof before attempting the climb.
Looking back down from the south side. Hands were shakeing from the exertion.
On the south side of the washout looking north.
After a short rest and some self-congratulations we set off hoping that was the last washout. It was, and the trail was in good shape down past Farron and Paulson. There was a great variety of terrain from quiet little ponds, to valleys, seen from narrow perches high above. Don’t fall down here, or stop if you don’t like heights. The trail crosses a road with gates (not locked) not long before it comes to a parking lot above Christina Lake. We turned right out of the parking lot and ran down into town to hook up with Highway 3 west up to Grande Forks.
Wider part of the trail, easy going at this point.
Nice ponds along the path.
Hwy #3 crosses above.
Old Mine building on a spur next to the line.
Signage above Christina Lake were we lost the trail. A road has been built over and across it.
Midway Station from the Old KVR days (a museum stand next to it). Midway B.C. right on the hwy.
At Grande Forks we went north on North Forks road watching on the left for a yellow steel gate to hook up with the trail again. The trail quickly climbs up out of town to skirt the cliff side that runs along the west side of the valley. One small tunnel before the trail gets a bit more challenging.
Not far from the town of Grande Forks, The trail starts right in town.
For those afraid of heights it can be a bit hairy in spots.
The surface gets loose and rough and a bit more overgrown. The trail between Greenwood and Midway looked wide and well maintained but the signage was very discouraging to motorcycles and we were ready for a pavement break. We jumped back on #3 and rolled into Rock Creek. After a short fuel up and navigation consult we headed out of town, north on hwy 33 to Beaverdell. We could not find a way onto the trail near Rock Creek and the place was crawling with tourists so we didn’t try too hard.
We linked up with the trail from the Beaverdell Station Road by the little store on the left as you come into town from the south. After you cross the river you will see a rough little path on your right that seems to go straight as the road swings left. That’s it. The path skirts around a trailing pile and hooks up onto the KVR that runs north, you can’t miss it. The trail is criss-crossed by logging roads and is fairly rough and overgrown. It climbs steadily and switches back on itself to gain altitude. There are a few swampy sections once you pass the Arlington Lake campground beside the trail. Just about 1 km past the campground you come to a “Y” where a logging road crosses. The KVR is straight ahead, concealed by the road’s grading and underbrush. It becomes very narrow from this point and extremely rough. Swampy sections sink holes and potholes everywhere. You won’t make a lot of time on this section but it is passable, during dry weather. We came out at a wide gravel (Oakangan Falls) road. Knowing the Myra Canyon and Bellevue Park were strictly off limits, we turned left (west) and followed the signs for Penticton about 69 km. It connects with Beaverdell road and Carmi road above Penticton. We made camp just south of the city on the lake. We stayed at Banbury Green RV Park and campground that my friend knew about. It was great camping under the trees right beside Skaha Lake.
Camp spot #9 at Branbury Green south of Penticton.
Full Moon Rising Over Skaha Lake, Penticton,B.C.
End of Part 1, more to come.
KLR on the KVR part 2
First light and ready to roll after breaking camp on Skaha Lake.
We headed north on Hwy. 97 to Summerland. We turned left at Prairie Valley Road and followed it west out of town. Following the signs for the KVR we stopped briefly at the one section that has a steam train running on it for the tourists. Three km. further along the road you will see the rail bed to the left of the road with signage for the Trans Canada Trail. We jumped back on it here and ran all the way into Princeton. The first couple of kilometers was very well maintained and ran in a narrow, beautiful canyon. The trail quickly deteriorated. It was strewn with rock fall, had very loose surface and one gate (put up by a farmer). The gate had a raised style cattle gate, painted blue wide enough for the bike or an ATV. Unfortunately the KLR didn’t quite have the ground clearance and I bottomed out hard cracking the stock skid plate. I had a bad feeling that I might have snagged the drain bolt, but I had dodged that bullet.
Typical scenery along the line west of Summerland on the KVR.
A little more artsy shot with the good camera.
Sharing the trail. Bike stopped and Shut off as it was freaking out the riders other horse. She thanked us for doing it.
This part of the trail is OK for all users (including Bikes and ATV's) Just stick to the speed limit as there are lots of properties adjacent to it.
The scenery and trail were great and passed by Osprey lake on very wide flat, soft groomed trail beside the lakes. Lots of little roads cross the KVR here and caution is needed.
More trestles, Heavily treed valley below.They just didn't get boring.
The "China" tunnel. So named because of the design of the south end exit/entrance.
Enjoying the view and waiting for the other rider.
The KLR earned my respect (and the BMW pilot's) on this trip. Easily doing anything asked of it. Quite a bargain for what it can do.
The bypass that was made on the south side of the China Tunnel from when a rock slide closed the entrance.
The KVR climbs from here south coming to the “China” tunnel then gradually descends into farmland by Jura and into the north east side of Princeton, (just above the lumber mill) at Old Hedley Road. The KVR intersects the Princeton Summerland road a few times as the KVR switches back twice to lose altitude coming down to Princeton. This stretch is unique on the KVR as it is rolling farmland, instead of the rocky, forested terrain that is the trademark of the KVR.
Purple flowers lined the KVR for miles as we got close to Jura Station.
The small Building (on the left in the picture)is Jura Station(where it used to be) as you get close to Princeton on the north side.
The bridge across the river at the north end of Princeton is blocked to motorized vehicles and (unless you are on a trials bike) I would not attempt ignoring the signs (and big concrete blocks). We joined up with the trail on the south side of town past the Chevron onto Old Mill Rd (parallel to the hwy. on the river side). There is a long concrete tunnel build in 1961, the year the KVR officially closed. The tunnel goes under hwy 3 and crosses a steel trestle and heads for Coalmont. As soon as you get over the trestle you get into a beautiful canyon with the trail running along the fast flowing river. Shortly after we came to another modern tunnel.
After you pass through a long Concrete tunnel at the end of Old Mill Road in Princeton (that goes under hwy#3) you cross this steel trestle.
Some Hoodoos along the path south of town.
Fantastic river Valley and the only tunnel north of Princeton, before Coalmont. 1949 was when it was completed.
Another action shot courtesy of the BMW pilot.
Interesting rock formation on the way to Coalmont
Not far north of the tunnel were the rail bed hugs the cliffs we came up against a landslide. A sandy section of the hillside had let loose and completely blocked the path, running into the river below. I saw that there were tracks over (probably from the 250 dirt bikes that had come out of the first tunnel heading for town. I figured what the hell, and took a run at it.
The picture does not do it justice. Incredibly loose, sandy and tough for a 500 lb motorcycle plus rider and gear. The local dirtbikes and atv's had no problem. Basterds!
First off in 30 years. The gaurds did there job and after a goofy pose it was down the other side no problem.
As far as he got. The back wheel dug in and he was hung up on his skid plate.
The KLR made it to the top when the front dug in and down I went. No harm done as I fell “into” the hill. The other way and it was trip over. My friend on the GS stopped and came running to help. I was waving him back and telling him to take a picture. He hadn’t taken his helmet off and did not get the message until he was nearly to me. When he realized that I was ok and not even pissed about dropping the new bike, he then pulled out the camera and took a shot of the KLR napping. I picked her up and rode down and parked far enough ahead that he could take a good run at it (and if he made it) have run off room. He was very nervous about it and dug in at about the same spot, digging the rear wheel down until he was sitting solid on the skid plate. This time around I took off the jacket and helmet before going to assist. I tried digging out ahead of the tire but he just kept digging deeper and the hill was very unstable. He asked me if I would please do this, as he didn’t have the stomach for it. This was his first real off road trip and I suspect the loaded GS was a handful. Despite this he was handling it great for the most part. Like me he just needs more seat time in the dirt. After assuring me that he would not be mad if I dropped it during the attempt, we backed it down the slide and removed the panniers once again. I took a run at the slide and managed to avoid the trench but the heavy bike dug the front in and I went down about the same place as I did on the KLR. I picked it up and rode it down onto the hard rail bed on the other side and went back to help him carry the cases over. The KLR had suffered only minor scratches to the plastic on the right side from the rocks mixed in with the sand of the slide. The GS had twisted the stock handgrip and it was easily straightened. It was a bit of a blow to my ego as I had gone over 30 years without crashing a bike and now I had crashed 2 in the space of twenty minutes.
After reassembling the GS away we went on toward Coalmont. This section was one of the most scenic of the whole run but had lots of little slides and rock fall all over the trail. Not far south of Coalmont there is a little beach on the north side of a short trestle that some of the locals were using. It’s a nice spot if you are up this way and need a cool down.
See it while you can! All wood and over a hundred years old. Careless smokers are sure to be it's death. There were butts all around the front on the dry grass and on the porch.
We stopped at the Coalmont Hotel hoping to find food. The saloon was like walking into a Wild West museum and I felt like I should have spurs clinking. The Friendly and informative woman that was running the Saloon (reminded me of my step mother) informed us that there was nothing for services, other than liquor and that the next town north, Tulameen had Food Gas, etc. I asked if she knew what the KVR was like heading north, and she was a wealth of information. It was pretty rough from being chewed up by the dirt bikers and ATVs. The trestle that used to go over the road near Brookmere was burnt down by the farmer (whose farm is on the north side of it). When the cops showed up he admitted to the crime telling them that it was the trestle or his animals. We chatted about the evils of the world for a time before heading for a much needed lunch in Tulameen.
Something old and something new-er.
Trestle burnt by angry farmer south of Brookmere.Thanks to the local dirt bike yobs! driving him nuts (show some common sense).
It was just as well that we had not eaten before the short stretch north of Coalmont as it was like water skiing across a powerboats wake made of marbles. The General store at Tulameen has gas out front (including premium) a bank machine and a little restaurant at the rear. The food is pretty good to, and not over priced. From the General store you cross the Highway and run back onto the KVR and across another trestle on the east side of the lake. The surface is really loose and only gets worse as you get further along. There are lots of gates along this stretch of the KVR and we developed a rhythm of alternately stopping to open and close the gates as we went along. For a long stretch the rail line runs down through a marshy area before heading into the bush again, but the rail bed is high and dry. Then just before Brookmere we came to the missing trestle. A narrow bypass runs down the west side down to a little bridge over the ditch of Coalmont road. The farmer seems to have purposely diverted a stream over his driveway at the base of the north side of the missing trestle. The gate is narrow and the mud is deep. I was willing to have a go at it, but my friend was all adventured out. So instead we took Coalmont road that winds east then north then west to finally reconnect to the KVR at the south end of Brookmere. It was an interesting, and dangerous logging road with terrible site lines. You could very easily end up as a hood ornament on a Logging truck. We stopped for a photo op at the old water tower in Brookmere and carried on.
Brookmere Water Tower. The only one left standing that we saw.
We were both tired and the KVR is like diving on large marbles north of the town. When we saw the wash out sign at the next spot were a road bisected the trail we did not hesitate to get on it. It took us quickly to the #5 highway and down to the Othello Tunnels exit. Just before the exit I spotted an ATV driving north on the service road that parallels the highway. The guy’s passenger, a blonde woman was riding topless and when my signal went on, my friend (who was right behind me) told me that he started laughing. He figured that I wanted a closer look, and to be honest the thought had crossed my mind. Following the signs for the campground we were there quickly. It is not a bad little place and not too expensive. You got a fairly big bundle of firewood for your money ($6.00) and the spot we had was right under two huge Cedars (spot # 31).
Camp spot #31 at Othello Tunnels Campground.
You can run into Hope without getting on the highway to get food, etc in about 10 minutes or less. The Othello Tunnels are worth seeing and are the southern end of the KVR. They truly show what can be done when the determination is great enough.
A little history
truly amazing work, especially for the era that it was done.
example of early steel girder construction
newer concrete construction that replaced wood shorring
worth a stop, for the view between the tunnels.
Part 2 end, more to come.
KLR on the Kettle Valley Railroad part 3
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After a stop early in the morning at the Tunnels, we hit Hope for breakfast and fuel. We headed east on the Hope Princeton highway stopping briefly at the Hope Slide pullout. We stayed on #3 into Princeton and for a change of scenery took Princeton Summerland road across the same route as we had come on the KVR. It gravels out at Osprey Lake, until Faulder near Summerland. We headed south into Penticton once again and followed the GPS that the GS was sporting to Naramata road north to Chute lake road. I spotted blue and white KVR signs and did better with those than the GPS to hook up with the KVR up in the Vineyard area on the northeastern outskirts of Princeton. The view from up there is spectacular on a clear day, but be warned it really is a multi use trail, and I had to pull over (where I could) so that a native couple in a S-10 Chevy Blazer could go in the other direction. There is one small tunnel (that’s in all the brochures) not far from where you get on.
The tunnel in all the brochures. High above Kelowna on the east side.
Action shot for the BMW crowd, they will ride with others, just not too close. :evil
We stopped a couple of times (and shut off the bikes) to let riders on horseback go by, and not freak out the horses. The next stop was at the Rock ovens, but we heeded the signs about rattlesnakes and didn’t poke around too much.
They tell it better than I could.
Watch out for rattle snakes, I'm not kidding.:eek1
Then the line runs up, switching back and climbing up to the Adra tunnel. Some douche bag set fire to the wooden shoring and the tunnel is now closed at both ends to all traffic. The stink of wet charred wood still hung heavy in the air and the lower entrance was very swampy. Not long before getting there I had gotten a fleeting glimpse of a Cougar as it disappeared off the trail. It was a fairly big cat by the size of its back end and tail.
Very cool idea, the camp was just behind this. I would have taken a bottle or 2 but didn't feel right about it without making a donation. The funds are for fixing the Adra tunnel that some A-hole burnt down. This is a good argument for the re-institution of chain gangs and hard labour.
lower entrance to the Adra tunnel, I wonder if the putz (that burnt it) is proud?!
Sign at the top of the short bypass
The KVR keeps climbing and then the rain started, getting heavier quickly. We stopped under some trees and donned the rain gear. The trail was easy going up to OK Mountain and the area of the big fire in 2003. The weather cleared briefly and we continued on towards Myra canyon hoping to at least get close to the park.
No other way to see Kelowna from this angle, awesome!
Ghosts of the past still haunt the forest here.
The Bellevue trestle, and the end of the line for us this trip.
We met a guy on an YZ 250 at the Park boundary and he did a bit of Recon for us. I noticed fresh bear tracks beside my bike while we waited, and removed our rain gear. When he returned he let us know that we would be at the first trestle very quickly and that the bypass was tough and that we would never get across the “raging river”. We thanked him for checking it out and carried on to the first trestle “Bellevue” and for us, the end of the line. We turned around and joined up with a logging road a few km. back that wound down the hill into Kelowna. We had done more of the KVR than we had even hoped to do. Although we might have gotten away with the trip through the Myra Canyon, we both felt that it wasn’t worth the consequences should we be caught or reported. Next time (when I have more time) I will camp near the park entrance and hike the Canyon. The whole experience was fantastic and I strongly recommend the KVR for a close to home adventure. Take a light as possible bike, don’t sport panniers, and go with another rider if possible. Do you need a GPS? No, unless you are really navigationally challenged. I would guess unless some money is thrown at maintaining the KVR right of way that the clock is ticking for many of the sections we rode. In another 5 to 10 years some areas will be impassable to all but hikers. It would be a shame to let such a historical and fascinating piece of our history crumble away into oblivion.
Please if you ride the KVR; respect the other users and the landowners adjacent to it. Sadly some of the locals (like the dirt bikers near Coalmont) take it for granted and the results are detrimental to all the rest of us.
If you do the trip I hope that this report will have you better prepared for the adventure. Cheers and Enjoy!
Lycan 1 (Lee)
Just wanted to tell you how much I appreciated this report. My wife and I are planning a 10 day journey through BC and have now included portions of the KVR based on your report.
Fantastic job guys. Btw, my wife rides an F650GS, same color and all. Should be a fantastic trip.
Btw, I don't know why you don't have more traffic on this thread. This to me is what adventure riding is all about.
This has got to be some of the most spectacular riding in North America!
Wow!! Fantastic Pics:clap
Thank You for taking the time to share this with us all
I think I know where I'll be headed next summer!
Good stuff, some good pics there:D
Excellent stuff! :thumb
Good report. The pictures are nice and your text provides a good story as well. Thanks for posting it.
Thanks all. It was my first crack at a ride report and the bar has been set very high on this site, so I put some effort into it. It helped to have 3 cameras along. I will be back on the K.V.R. as I found a few bits that I have not yet done north of Merrit along highway 8. I was on my other bike heading for Lytton B.C. when I spotted sections of the road bed and an old trestle.:evil
I do appreciate the good comments, but compared to some more exotic locals, it pales by comparison. I was starting to wonder why it took so long to see any traffic on the thread.:cry
Now that you have ridden the railway, you should read McCulloch's Wonder by Barrie Sanford. It is the story of the KVR, and also an eye opener to the politics involved in the building of B.C. and Canada. It should be mandatory reading for British Columbians. While riding it last year, I was lucky enough to run inot a character that told me about the book. I was not disappointed.
Good ride report and thanks for sharing.
(I lost my glasses in the Coalmont hotel after a couple of pints and spent the rest of my trip squinting at everything.):rofl
I think your RR is Awwwsome and does not pale to others by any stretch IMHO
Hell, the pics alone of that region are magnificent!
Well If you liked this report you can check out the one that I did on Vancouver Island and the Kootenays on my other forum, here:
And does anyone know "the Pack rat" ? I could not find him in the members list but I met him in his Suzuki DS at Telegraph Cove during the trip. He is a member here he told me, from Toronto.
Rumour has it the nasty washout on the Columbia And Western is to be repaired this year. I'll post an update once I know more.
Cool ride man! I would like to experience tunnels like that, must be spooky especially if there are puddle you never know how deep they are... :clap
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