John and I have been talking about checking out the trestle bridges in the Myra Canyon for years but had never done it. Our good friends and neighbours, Barry and Lorellei, who we fondly refer to as our “social directors” had never made the trip either and so when they suggested we take our bikes there this past weekend we eagerly agreed to go. We were not disappointed. The bridges are part of the Kettle Valley rail trail and span about 10 km of the approximately 600 km long trail.
We almost lost the opportunity for good in 2003 when the Kelowna fires swept into the Myra Canyon. In all, 12 wooden trestles were totally destroyed, and the decks of the two steel trestles were burned, plus damage to the trail itself and the amenities that had been built up over the last 10 years. Thanks to the Myra Canyon Trestle Restoration Society they have all been restored and the trail was reopened in the spring of 2008. I’m incredibly grateful for the installed handrails as well. In the past there had been people who had fallen from the bridges and not survived. I’m not sure that I would have been able to cross them without the reassurance that those handrails provided.
Original construction on the Myra Canyon trestle bridges was started in 1910 in a push to connect the interior of BC and the Kootneys to the west coast by rail. Canadian Pacific Railway was rushing to beat the american Great Northern Railway in order to ensure the silver ore found in the Kootneys would remain in Canada. Chief engineer, Andrew McCulloch, was faced with an incredible task of building 18 wood trestle bridges along Myra Canyon in the Kettle Valley. The construction was complete in July of 1916 and fulfilled the dream of a coast-to-Kootney railway, and by doing so almost eliminated the american occupation in the Kootneys.
It is not until you are in the canyon itself and experience the height of the sheer drops and the rugged rocky terrain before you realize just what an incredible engineering feat this must have been for McCulloch and his crew. Not only did they have to build without the machinery we have today, but they also didn’t have computers and programs to assist with the very precise calculations necessary for drafting and engineering the wooden bridges.
Our afternoon of biking along the spectacularly scenic trail was well worth the trip and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting the Kelowna area. It is also a beautiful trail to walk if you would rather. The trail never goes beyond a 2.2% grade so either way it is easy going.
The railway is long gone and the metal track has all been removed. Yet as I biked along the path, over the bridges and through the rock tunnels, if I listened really hard I thought I could still make out the sound of a steam engine chugging along.