Othello Tunnels

Last Monday dawned clear and bright and sadly it was time to say farewell to our son and daughter-in-law and head home.

While it is less than a four hour drive home it ended up taking us about seven hours.  We made a stop at the cemetery to visit hubby’s dad, another stop in Chilliwack to top up with fuel and pick up some sandwiches for lunch, and then a stop at the Othello Tunnels outside of Hope, BC for a long awaited hike through the tunnels.

We have stopped at the tunnels many times over the years with both our children and grandchildren.  It was always a great place to let the kids run off some energy and have lunch.  Some years ago we stopped for a hike and found the tunnels closed and in need of repair so we were happy to hear they had reopened this year.

We ate our lunch beside the river.

The tunnels were constructed in 1914 and were part of a southern railway route constructed by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), called the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR). The KVR connected the west coast to the city of Nelson, BC and, if you have been reading my blog for some time, you may remember we have ridden our bikes many times over a section of the KVR in Kelowna.

The KVR line was in service until a major washout occurred in 1959 and it was abandoned in 1961. In 1986 the tunnels became part of Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park’s trail system.

Walking over the bridges in the Othello Tunnels area, it becomes evident how difficult it must have been to build this railway. There are sheer rock cliffs ending in violently rushing water in a remote area where, over a 100 years ago, it seems impossible to believe they would have the equipment to build a railway.

Workers used a suspension footbridge to traverse the Coquihalla Canyon during construction of the stronger railway bridges.  Bridging the Coquihalla River was no easy task and it had to be crossed twice in a short distance.

 

 

Work was done completely by hand using the suspension footbridge, ladders, and ropes.  Rock drillers hand drilled holes to set explosives to blow up rock.  Drillers had to quickly scramble up ropes to the top of the canyon to get out of the way before the blast.

Since the canyon was inaccessible to machinery, workers had to excavate mostly by pick and shovel.  It is said not a single worker was killed during the construction of the tunnels.

The tunnels are called “The Quintette Tunnels” but there are actually only four tunnels not five.  One of the tunnels was “daylighted” on one side creating a window and the illusion of an extra tunnel.

After walking through tunnel four, the Othello Tunnels route abruptly ends, although the trail keeps going all the way to the town of Hope, B.C. another 8km south.  We decided not to continue on but instead turned around and headed back to the parking lot.

Due to the canyon’s rugged look, many popular films have been filmed in this area.  The most notable was Rambo First Blood where the cliff above Tunnel two was used in the spectacular cliff jump scene. Other movies that filmed scenes around Othello Tunnels include Fire With Fire, The Adventures of Yellow Dog, and Shoot To Kill.

We really enjoyed our time at the tunnels and highly recommend it as a stop if you are on your way to the lower mainland of BC.

Our last stop of the day was at the Penask Summit brake check where many years before our son, daughter-in-law, and grandson put up a bird house, so of course we had to check and see if it was still there … and yes it was 🙂

Until next time …

12 thoughts on “Othello Tunnels

  1. Very cool. We’ll have to stop again–We’ve only stopped once(because we always seem to be in a rush)but it certainly looks beautiful and your facts are most informative so thanks. Pictures gorgeous too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It is always amazing to see these old structures and imagine how they were built. The fact no one was hurt on the process is truly incredible. It’s great that they’ve made them accessible for public enjoyment. Very pretty.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Had a comment written but it was deleted by WordPress, I assume.
    Lovely pictures. Looks like a great place to visit! We saw First Blood so that is very cool!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have that problem when I try to comment on your blog, either that or it will only take my comment as anonymous. I haven’t seen First Blood but I will have to watch it now 😊

      Like

  4. I had heard of the tunnels but knew nothing about them. Now I do thanks to this post. Lots of works putting it together. Thank you. I have so much admiration for those that helped build our railroads. A difficult life, so much hard physical labour.

    How neat that the birdhouse is still there. I’m sure that your son’s family was inspired to see the photos.

    Liked by 1 person

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