BCHF News Slocan Valley Rail Trail: Soak Up History & Nature

Slocan Valley Rail Trail: Soak Up History & Nature

Submitted by the Slocan Valley Heritage Trail Society

A level, scenic trail easily accessible to all

The Slocan Valley Rail Trail (SVRT) is a 50 km non-motorized recreational trail that winds its way along the Slocan Valley between South Slocan and the Village of Slocan on beautiful Slocan Lake.  Following alongside the scenic Slocan River for much of its length, the rail trail can be easily accessed at any one of 8 trailheads spread along its length, complete with parking, information kiosks and rest facilities.  Maintained year round by volunteers from the Slocan Valley Heritage Trail Society it is kept brushed and mowed in summer and groomed and track-set in winter.  Walking, horseback riding and bicycling alternate with snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing, depending on the season.  Amenities including food and accommodation are never far away.

History and prehistory interpreted along the SVRT

The Slocan Valley has a rich history with human settlement documented for at least 3,800 years.  The SVRT passes right alongside two of the best preserved archaeological sites on the Canadian side of the Interior Plateau.  A biennial field school is conducted at the Lemon Creek site under the supervision of archaeologist Nathan Goodale and trail users are welcome to stop by during the field school for an informal tour.  As well, there is a guided public tour put on at the end of each field school season.  Self-guided tours can be enjoyed any time.

Four interpretive panels tell the story of prehistoric settlement in the Slocan Valley.  Located on kiosks along the SVRT near two ancient pit house village sites at Vallican and Lemon Creek, the kiosks also host 4 panels summarizing the highlights of historic settlement from the 1880’s to the present day.

On the reverse sides of the two kiosks, an overview of the historic period in the Valley is provided from the Silver Rush in the late 1880’s to the coming of the Doukobors in the early 20th century, the internment of Japanese-Canadians in 1942, farming, logging and sawmilling history, and the coming of the back-to-the-landers in the late 1960’s.

At the locations of two of the internment camps, trail users will find interpretive signage explaining in words and pictures the story of what happened to Canada’s Japanese-Canadians during and after the Second World War.  At Lemon Creek and Popoff Farm, nearly 3,000 people were housed in hastily constructed internment shacks where today two empty hay fields are all that remain.

The history of the Doukhobors is told on interpretive panels located on the rail trail at Slocan Park and Appledale. This pacifist sect first settled in the Slocan Valley after 1908 and their descendants now make up a significant percentage of the Valley’s population.  Although troubled at times, their history is an important part of our story.  The interpretive panel at Appledale shows the Doukhobor brick factory that operated there in the early 20th century.

Smaller interpretive panels are located above the Patrick sawmill site and at the pioneer Kosciancic farm, both in Crescent Valley.  Reputedly the most modern sawmill in BC when it was built, the proceeds of its sale in were used by the Patricks to fund a hockey arena in Vancouver that launched professional hockey in the west.

The Slocan Valley Rail Trail’s northern terminus is located in the Village of Slocan.  Beginning at the trailhead, the Slocan Valley Historical Society has recently created a History Walk with several kiosks and many panels of interpretive signage – all within 4 blocks of the trail – where the visitor can enjoy learning about the rich history of this “boom and bust” silver mining turned sawmill town and the events, buildings and characters that graced its history from the 1880’s to the present day.