Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sandon, BC

Did I mention that we like to travel along the backroads of British Columbia to experience the life and times of days gone by. We started our quest nearly 2 decades ago travelling to places not usually found on modern maps. Names of places such as Phoenix where there was a town on the top of a mountain, or Coalmont with a name like that you would expect that it had something to do with coal. Well, Coalmont was a whistle stop along the defunct Kettle Valley Railway (KVR). Or course all the tracks have been removed but they have turned the railbeds into a highway for cyclists. The steam engines used to stop at Coalmont to fill up with coal before their long trek through the mountains on their way to the Coast. There's not much there now except for a few crumbling buildings and an Old hotel/pub still used by the locals .
Sandon was one of those places that was nestled between 2 narrow mountains.

(access via a short 6 km gravel road)

Geographically Sandon is north of Creston. It is about a 12-14 hour drive from Vancouver in the Kootenays OR 4-5 hours East of Kelowna off Hwy 31A via the cable ferry at Needles.

(5 km marker)

Within this area are some of the best motorcycle roads in British Columbia. There is a very large BMW rally in Nakusp hosted by the BeeCeeBeemers Motorcycle Club


The Sandon townsite is now privately owned, by a mining company I believe. At one time the population of Sandon was 5,000 residents. There were hotels, saloons and this was one of the first towns to have electricity.

(Sandon, main street)

There are still some residents living here but not much else is going on.

(business opportunity waiting for a buyer)

There is a preservation group working towards restoring some of the buildings. The museum was closed but generally open during the two summer months (tourist season).

(former: Japanese Tea House)

The winters are very harsh in this area due to this narrow valley. It is only about 1 km wide and during the winter months, with the low angle of the sun, makes for a very short window for sunshine to build up any heat. You were lucky to get 1 hour of sun daily, that is, if the sun came out at all. Sandon was a designated Japanese Interment Camp during the War. The Japanese were rounded up and taken to these camps away from the coast as a security measure. This building was used as their Tea House while they were here.

(another view showing the road up the mountain)

If you travel up the road near the top of the mountain, there is a hiking trail that will take you to the top with a commanding view of Slocan Lake.

(Museum: Sandon, BC)

Sandon was built up on both sides of the River. Actually the town was actually built "on top" of the river. There was a boardwalk over the river and buildings to both sides with foundations on the 'dirt' . This boardwalk was the "Main Street" which you see and hear the water flowing below.

(looking north)

This could be a fast moving river, at certain times of the year.

(looking south)

Imagine walking on the boardwalk over the river, sort of like a main street with stores on both sides with a population of 5,000. people

link here: <--- click for more info

One winter some beavers upstream built a dam which blocked the water flow. It was during the night and the residents didn't have any warning when the dam was holding back too much water and finally broke. The resulting rush of water created a sort of tidal wave which "wiped out" the town destroying everything.


Sandon was used as an Internment Camp for only ONE year as the winters were too severe

You can find more info here:

It is an interesting place and if you are in the area try to allow time for a visit.


  1. Dear bobskoot:

    This was a delightful tour of a special part of BC, combining raw adventure with lots of local color and history. I could easily imagine your scooter snarling its way up the mountainous roads, while you occasionaly stop and grab a few pictures. Next time, see if you can grab a few shots of the old hotel pub (still used by the locals). It soulds like my kind of place.

    Fondest regards,
    Twisted Roads

  2. Bob,
    Your post is a piece of Canadiana which I very much appreciate. I love running down historical memory lanes of our country.
    Your shots are clear and crisp. Love the Japanese Tea House, the crumbling houses, the narrow road and the fast moving river. A piece of art my friend. Certainly one way of preserving and documenting history.
    Thanks for sharing this with us.

  3. Cool, Canada violated civil rights too!They just have the good taste to keep quiet about it I suppose. Aside from the lack of sunshine and the short summer it looks delightful. I think a 20kph speed limit might give me hives.

  4. If you started this out two decades ago, that must have been some back road!

    Actually, I really enjoyed this post. The older I get the more I enjoy finding out about the past.

  5. Thanks for tour, Bobskoot! Your pictures show towns that had great promise in their days. I hope the preservation efforts continue.

  6. comments: sorry for the late replies. I've been AWOL for a few days reaquainting myself with the finer points of photography and getting caught up with the analogue --> digital age.

    Jack: One of our favourite pastimes is to try to discover the "history" of our great land by taking the road less travelled. I am intrigued with "Places Lost". Actually there is a book of this title which I have been meaning to purchase about the lost towns in Newfoundland (where we visited a few years ago). The little town of Coalmont is probably over an hour, return from the main highway, but I will see how our time goes the next time we are in the area

    Baron: I have been trying to find "other" Interment camps, but most have been dismantled. There was one around Greenwood, but we couldn't find it. But we did locate the old townsite of Phoenix and their old cemetery, of which I have another story to tell

    Conchscooter: The town of Sandon is located in an area with HARSH winters. I don't think you will want to have a summer escape there. Much better to live under your stilted house . . . Ah, one day . . . our dream may come true. I think I would like to drive on your elevated highway above the water and visit KW and eat at some of the places you write about.

    Irondad: I suppose my words weren't that clear. No we didn't start two decades ago on this particular trip, but rather we started two decades ago to try to learn more about the history of this part of the country, which I include WA, OR, BC, and AB. There are excellent M/C roads in this area perhaps to tempt you to visit, but you may have to give up a few weekends of instructing

    Lance: Actually, have you ever driven the "Darrington Loop". Excellent road through wilderness area. When the pavement ends on that stretch that starts from Granite City there is a ghost town called "Monte Cristo". I understand that there are now 3 permanent residents and also the terminus of the Galloping Goose Railway. There are at least 5 tunnels on the stretch which are accessible, but we couldn't find them. Two have collapsed but you are able to get into the other ones if you have waterproof gear and flashlights. We also stopped at the "BIG Three mountain" to visit the Ice-Caves. Go on a warm day and you can feel the thermals from the caves nearly a mile away.