Hedley, Similkameen Valley
You can drive through this very small community in a minute or two but you will be well-rewarded if you take time to stop along this scenic route (Crowsnest Hwy) to experience the history of gold mining right here. Look up and you can see the mine clinging to the side of the mountain. Today, The Mascot Mine has been developed into an interpretive centre with guided tours that will delight all visitors. The town isn’t just about history, it is situated on the Similkameen River and for those who enjoy tubing, you can take a float down the river. The river also attracts an abundance of bird species so bring your binoculars and enjoy.
Hedley is located on Hw 3 (Crowsnest Hwy) in the south Okanagan, 29 km (18 mi) west of Keremeos and 48 km (30 mi) east of Princeton.
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 400.