Made famous by the discovery of gold in 1897, Hedley has become one of the great names in Canadian gold mining history. Named after Robert R. Hedley, manager of the Hall Smelter in Nelson, who had grubstaked many of the early prospectors, Hedley grew quickly, and by 1900 boasted a population of over 1,000, with 5 hotels and a large stamp mill.
The V.V. & E. railroad arrived in Hedley in 1909 to help haul the gold out at the incredible rate of more than 50,000 ounces per year. In 1936 the Mascot Mine started operation, increasing the total production to more than 1.5 million ounces of gold and in excess of four million pounds of copper. By that time Hedley boasted all of the major conveniences of a small city, including a nine-hole golf course.
Between 1956 and 1957 there were several disastrous fires in the community and this, coupled with dwindling ore production from the mines led to Hedley's steady decline.
Nowadays, Hedley is a quiet community with an approximate population of 350.
Hedley is located on Hw 3 in the south Okanagan, 29 km (18 mi) west of Keremeos and 48 km (30 mi) east of Princeton.
The museum is located on a beautiful treed site across the street from its new park where you will find picnic tables set amid the mining artifacts. Both the old Lyon's house and the original log barn are open for viewing. Inside is an amazing collection of historical photos showing all aspects of a gold mining community in its hey day. As well, you will see displays, a replica mine portal and much more.
Enjoy a light lunch and homebaking in the Mascot Tea Room then browse through the Wild Goat Book shop for items you will only find in Hedley.
The Upper Similkameen Indian Band has developed the former mine site, perched high above the tiny Similkameen community of Hedley, into a first class tourist attraction. Over 500 steps lead visitors down the mountainside and through the 80 year-old buildings that made up the original mine site. Interpretive signage and well-informed guides explain details of each building and landmark.
A small pine-dotted camping area by the Similkameen River - this park is a popular choice for a relaxing picnic. Anglers like to try their luck from the rock-covered shoreline. Be aware that the river runs fast and excellent swimming skills are required. Also, keep your eyes open for poison ivy along the riverbank.
A striking rock bluff along the Similkameen River provides a focus for this tiny park. Swimmers can enjoy a refreshing dip in a quiet pool. Hiking in the area affords good views of the Similkameen Valley. Tubing is also popular here giving a downstream route to Stemwinder Provincial Park.
Those with an adventurous spirit can try their luck at gold panning, which is always popular in this area famed for its gold.
Princeton is located at the junction of the Similkameen and Tulameen Rivers. Tubing or kayaking from Bromley Rock Provincial Park is a great way to enjoy a summer afternoon. Both rivers are excellent for swimming or trout fishing. See over 50 lakes with sport fish in them within a 100 kilometre (60 mile) radius.
Forty-two kilometres of groomed trails loop through mature Douglas Fir forest, crossing rolling hills with many fine views of the surrounding valleys. Trails are maintained by the China Ridge Cross-Country Skiing Society and donations for trail maintenance are requested (deposit in box at trailhead).
Manning Park Resort and Nickel Plate Nordic Centre offer skate and track skiing; both have ski shops and rental equipment. Seasons passes may be purchased online. Day passes are sold on site.
Cycle over forty kilometres of signed trails leading through old growth forest and young forest with many a breath-taking view. But that's not all: the China Ridge trails connect to the Kettle Valley Rail Trail. They also connect to endless old logging roads and one can cycle all the way from Merritt.
You can really get away on these trails. Make sure you have a trail map and the proper safety equipment.
Gold mines were once synonymous with Hedley, providing a rich heritage of community and social resources and events. In May 1904 the Stamp Mill began to crush the ore from Nickel Plate Gold Mine and continued to do so until 1955. Once a year the community celebrated Stamp Mill Day in order to commemorate the dropping of the first stamp and the retrieval of vast tons of gold from the mine high above the town, historically this included a parade, games for children, a picnic and competitions.
In 2003 Hedley's Heritage Museum Society, with the help of other Hedley community clubs and individuals, revived the traditional Stamp Mill Day celebration. Activities include gold panning, entertainment, and old fashioned contests for all ages.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia