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Bridge River Valley

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Old mining cars in Bralorne

The Bridge River Valley is a sparsely populated area of lakes, valleys, abandoned towns and near-ghost towns in the South Chilcotin mountains between Pemberton and Lillooet. It offers many hiking, camping, fishing, hunting and mountaineering opportunities.

Understand[edit]

The valley is mostly wilderness with a couple of settlements and a number of lodges clustered near the upper end of Carpenter Lake. The main settlements — Gold Bridge, at the western end of Carpenter Lake, and Bralorne, about 15 km south of Gold Bridge — are very small with 50-100 people each. They are the service centers for the valley with a limited selection of accommodation and restaurants.

Although there aren't many people in the Bridge River Valley these days, it wasn't always that way. The Bridge River area was once British Columbia's main gold mining region, producing over $100 million of ore. During it's heyday, in the 1930s - 50s, over 10,000 people lived in the region. The productivity of the mines declined and by the early seventies they were all shut down, leaving the abandoned mineshafts and townsites behind.

As the mines declined in importance, hydroelectric development grew in prominence. The Bridge River is dammed in three places, creating the two resevoirs that dominate the valley: Carpenter Lake and Downton Lake. The dams are estimated to provide up to 8% of British Columbia's power.

The main draw of the region today is its recreational activities. There are many trails in the area for hiking, horseback riding and mountain biking providing the quintessential B.C. panorama of snow-capped mountains, forest-clad slopes, glacier-fed lakes and alpine meadows. In the winter, it's popular with snowmobilers.

Climate[edit]

The Bridge River Valley's climate is generally warm and sunny in the summer and cool and wet in the winter. Daytime highs typically reach the mid to high 20s (Celsius) in summer with below zero temperatures December to February. Snow is common from November through March. Compared to Vancouver, it is warmer in summer, cooler in winter and a bit drier throughout the year.

Visitor Information[edit]

  • Bridge River Valley Economic Development Society, 104 Haylmore Ave, Gold Bridge, +1 250-238-2534 (), [1]. Has a selection of tourist brochures and maps of the region.  edit

Get in[edit]

By car[edit]

There are two ways to access the Bridge River Valley by car, but neither is for the faint of heart. The easiest is from Lillooet, via the Carpenter Lake Road (also known as the Lillooet Pioneer Highway and Route 40). The scenery is outstanding with deep rocky canyons and the turquoise waters of Carpenter Lake, but the road may not be for everyone. It hugs every bend in the landscape, is frequently narrow with no guardrails and there are intermittent gravel sections. The distance from Lillooet to Gold Bridge is 100 km, taking about 1.5-2 hours. If driving from Vancouver, it will take approximately 5-6 hours.

A faster but rougher alternate route into the valley from Vancouver during summer is the Hurley -- or more formerly, the Hurley River Forest Service Road -- from Pemberton. Designed for logging, the road is gravel with ruts and rocks and is best traversed with a high clearance vehicle (normal 2WD cars can handle the trip if the driver is comfortable with those road conditions). The Hurley isn't plowed in winter, so it's generally only open June to October. The distance between Pemberton and Gold Bridge is about 80 km and the drive from Vancouver is about 3.5-5 hours.

By air[edit]

Tyax Air [2] operates a floatplane service between Tyax Resort and Whistler or Vancouver. It's very scenic in good weather but an expensive way to get in and only useful if staying at the Tyax Resort. $1000 (Whistler) / $2000 (Vancouver) one way.


Get around[edit]

A car is needed to get around the Bridge River Valley. The distances are large and there is no public transit.

The main thoroughfare is Carpenter Lake Rd. There are many gravel roads and forest service roads that lead to hikes, lakes, lodges and various other points in the valley.

See[edit][add listing]

  • Bralorne itself is an interesting place to walk or drive around, a curious fusion of old-time mining town and modern updating. Many of the buildings have a temporary Western boom town kind of feel to them, but without the grand facade seen in Western movies. Rundown houses with tin roofs are interspersed with freshly painted houses sporting bold colours. The old Pioneer Mines headquarters captures this spirit well, with its gleaming white exterior and fresh artwork inside that blends with but doesn't hide its faded past.
  • Bradian, Pinecrest Lane & Pioneer Highway (follow the Pioneer Highway about 2 km south of Bralorne). Bradian is an old "suburb" of Bralorne that is now abandoned. Many of the houses are still there, in remarkably good condition.
  • Bralorne-Pioneer Museum, 400 Hawkes Ave, Bralorne. 10AM-4PM F-Tu. Learn about the Bridge River Valley with displays on the history of the valley, its mines and the towns. Outside is a collection of restored old equipment from the mines and Bralorne's past. $4. (50.7713,-122.8071) edit
  • Minto, Carpenter Lake Rd (accessed from the Gun Creek Campsite). Minto was a mining company town on the Bridge River that was flooded and mostly abandoned after a flood in the 1950s. The town was fully submerged when the --- Dam was built and Carpenter Lake formed. When water levels are low in late fall and winter, the remains of Minto emerge from the lake and people can explore what is left of the town. During the summer, it provides a good spot to launch canoe/kayak or just take in the view.

Do[edit][add listing]

  • There are many hiking trails in the area. These include:
    • Gun Lake
    • Kingdom Lake

Buy[edit][add listing]

There is a general store in Gold Bridge with a small selection of supplies.

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Gold Bridge Hotel, 6 Ferguson Ave, Gold Bridge, +1 250 238-2343.  edit
  • Lone Goat Coffee, Pioneer Highway, Bralorne (inside the Pioneer Mines Motel), 250-238-2637. F-M 10AM-4PM. Serves up coffee (espresso drinks) and tea with a selection of gourmet baked goods and paninis. Also offers local and imported art, handicrafts and gifts. Cafe space is decorated with wall murals and interesting, unique decor. Wi-Fi is available and is free with purchase. $2-6.  edit
  • Mineshaft Pub, 3900 Pioneer Highway, Bralorne (Route 40 & the East Hurley Road), +1 250 238-0150, [3]. 11AM to late. The main gathering place for locals with a bar and pool table inside and a patio for the long summer days. The food is homestyle cooked and portions are good. The menu consists of burgers, salads, pizza and other pub standards. $10-15 for mains. (50.7784,-122.8192) edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Coffee is available at the Lone Goat. Drinks of the alcoholic variety are served at the Gold Bridge Hotel and the Mineshaft Pub. Alcohol can also be purchased from the Gold Bridge General Store.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Camping[edit]

There are a number of campgrounds with limited facilities in the area.

  • Gun Creek
  • Gun Lake South
  • Gwyneth Lake
  • Kingdom Lake
  • Mowson Pond

Motels[edit]

Motels are fairly scarce and don't expect luxury. The Gold Bridge Hotel (see Eat section above) also offers rooms during the summer for $70-100 per night.

  • Mines Motel, 3600 Pioneer Highway, Bralorne (corner of Dirks Place & Pioneer Hwy, check-in is at the Mineshaft Pub). $70-100. (50.7761,-122.8171) edit
  • Pioneer Mines Motel, Pioneer Highway, Bralorne. $40/night cash. (50.77766,-122.8190) edit

Lodges[edit]

  • Tyax Lodge, Tyaughton Lake Rd (8 km down Tyaughton Lake Rd, follow the signs from Route 40), +1 250 238-2221 (toll free: 1-877-918-8929 (North America only), , fax: +1 250 238-2528). Log frame resort with 29 resort rooms, a lakeside chalet and lakeside campground. The front lawn provides views of Tyaughton Lake and has beach volleyball, lawn chairs and ample space for just relaxing. There is also a private dock with free canoe and paddleboat rentals. The campground has electrical hook-ups and campers can use the shower facilities in the lodge. $192-203 in high season (lakeside resort rooms), $20-30 for campground (tent/RV).  edit
  • Morrow Chalets

Stay safe[edit]

Contact[edit]

There is no cellphone reception in the Bridge River Valley.

The Mineshaft Pub has two computers with free Internet access. Printing is available for 10 cents per page.

Get out[edit]

More hiking and biking trails are available at the South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park. The park is accessed by hiking or biking in from trailheads along the Slim Creek Forest Service Rd at Gun Lake. Alternatively, the Tyax Lodge will fly visitors into the park for a fee.

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