The Trails Society of British Columbia
A Myra Canyon Overview
The world-famous Myra Canyon is located approximately 18 kilometres southeast of downtown Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Pooley Creek winds through the upper canyon as it drains the Okanagan Highland section of the Thompson Plateau. Pooley Creek drains into KLO Creek which, in turn, empties into Mission Creek, a major water source for Okanagan Lake. The Natural Resources Canada 1:50,000 topographic map - Kelowna 82 E/14 - is a good reference source for detailed information.
Little White Mountain, at 2171 metres, is the high point on this section of the plateau. The former Kettle Valley Railway skirts the north end of the highland on the loop between the West Kettle River and the Okanagan Valley. The rail grade through the canyon varies in elevation from 1258 metres east of Myra Station to 1244 metres near Ruth Station with the high point near Trestle # 12 of 1274 metres. See the Myra Canyon Maps for the trestle layout.
A Brief History
The Myra Canyon section of the Kettle Valley Railway was built between 1912 and 1914. It was part of a "Coast to Kootenay" railway line that linked Midway, in British Columbia's Boundary District, with the Canadian Pacific Railway main line at Hope. The railway carried freight and passengers through the Myra Canyon until passenger service ended in 1964 and the last scheduled train went through in 1973. See the Myra Canyon History for a little more information on the Kettle Valley Railway.
In June 1973 the Kettle Valley Railway section in the Myra Canyon, with its wood-frame trestles, tunnels, rock cuts, and awe-inspiring mountainous terrain, was used by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) as a location for filming a segment of Pierre Berton's "National Dream" television film on the construction of the CPR through the mountains of British Columbia.
The province purchased the rail corridor from Canadian Pacific Railway in 1990. The Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society, established in 1992, has been instrumental in leading the restoration and maintenance of the corridor and trestles. Hundreds of volunteers have worked to cover the open trestle ties and timbers with boardwalks and to install railings to make the route safe and accessible for all ages and abilities. As a result, the trestles became a cornerstone of the Provincial Rails to Trails network, a vital link along the Trans Canada Trail, as well as a significant tourism asset attracting as many as 50,000 visitors a year.
In January 2003, the Myra Canyon section (from Mile 84.5 to Mile 90.5) of the Kettle Valley Railway was designated a National Historic Site.
At 2 A.M. on Saturday morning, August 16, 2003, a bolt of lightning struck a tree near Squally Point in Okanagan Mountain Park. An extremely dry summer and plenty of fuel, coupled with high winds, quickly spread the fire into the city of Kelowna. It destroyed over 200 homes before spreading up the mountainside to the former kettle Valley Railway right-of-way. On September 3, the Okanagan Mountain Park wildfire entered the Myra Canyon area and, despite heroic efforts by firefighters, destroyed 12 wooden trestles and damaged two steel trestles.
The loss of the trestles and their significant historic and tourism values warranted immediate action. As a result, the Myra Canyon Trestle Assessment Steering Committee was formed. The Steering Committee members include the Ministry of Competition, Science and Enterprise, Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection, Parks Canada, Western Economic Diversification, Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society, Trails BC, Friends of the South Slopes, PinnAcle Consulting, Regional District of Central Okanagan and the Canadian Pacific Railway. The mandate of the Steering Committee is to assess the damages to the trestles and develop options for rebuilding them.
On October 17, 2003 BC Premier Gordon Campbell announced the appointment of a task force to work with communities, volunteers, the private sector and the federal government to help develop a plan to rebuild and restore the Myra Canyon trestles. The task force includes Senator Ross Fitzpatrick, Minister of Competition, Science and Enterprise Rick Thorpe, Mayor of Kelowna Walter Gray and Ken Campbell, past-president of the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society.
Trestle Reconstruction Underway
On August 26, 2004, Premier Gordon Campbell and Senator Ross Fitzpatrick announced a $13.5-million partnership between the provincial and federal governments to rebuild the historic Myra Canyon trestles. Work began on Trestle #18 in October, 2004 with the plan to have it completed by year-end. Work will continue on the remaining trestles in 2005 with a target date of late 2007 for re-opening the rail grade. Visit the "Trails BC News & Events" page for more information.
Myra Canyon Bypass Trail Under Construction
Trails BC, with the valuable help of the Myra Canyon Restoration Society, began searching for a viable route around the destroyed trestles in September, 2003. After a couple of exploratory trips, a route was identified that could use existing logging roads, the South East Kelowna Irrigation District ditch road, and a steep trail through a fireguard.
Fears of water supply contamination and safety hazards on the steep trail ruled out this route. Research continued during the winter, and in May, 2004, an alternate route was identified that was shorter, lower in elevation and below the domestic water ditch. After obtaining permission from the BC Forest Service and BC Parks, work began on the new trail under the supervision of Tracey Harding of the Regional District of Central Okanagan. Wet weather and wet slopes prompted several delays, however work was completed on a basic trail by October, 2004.
The bypass trail uses approximately 12 kilometres of existing logging roads and three kilometres of newly constructed or rehabilitated road and trail to complete a 15 kilometre route between the Myra Forest Service Road and Little White Forest Service Road crossings of the former Kettle Valley Railway grade. Visit the "Myra Canyon Map" page for more information.
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