The Gray Creek Pass Forest Service Road has re-opened after the back country forest fire closures, and construction of a bridge replacement between September 2 and 29, 2017. Forestry posted this route between West and East Kootenay as CLOSED but intrepid souls continued to drive past the barricades, only to have to back-track when they came to the Baker Creek bridge project.
This new improvement makes all nine bridges solid cincrete – emphasizing the importance of this seasonal route, which is usually open between July 1st and mid to late October, depending on early snowfalls at the 6800 foot summit. As of this year, it is officially part of the Trans Canada Trail, and traffic continues to increase. Precast concrete sections for this bridge were supplied by Rapid – Span Precast Ltd. of Armstrong BC.
We find that this trek is known by many Europeans, such as a couple who had planned this trip from their home in England but were unfortunately turned away by the forest fire closure. 2017 was the second year for the BC EPIC 1000, a cycle race of 1000 km from Merritt to Fernie. This late June race can be followed on-line by clicking on riders to find their position and the mileage completed, and yet to come, for each.
This Forestry road was opened to the public in 1990 with Claude Richmond, then Minister of Forests, cutting the ribbon in front of a substantial crowd brought to the summit by chartered buses from Kimberley and Gray Creek on Kootenay Lake. He was presented with a Gray Creek Pass tee shirt by Dr. Harold Prussin, who was then president of the Kootenay Lake Chamber of Commerce.
This route has road signs and cement curbing as well as the Oliver Lake Recreation site – unlike most Forest roads. Russell Mussio of the Back Road Mapbooks rates this “The most Important Backroad in BC.” Oliver Lake is not visible from the road but it is well worth the ten-minute walk to see this tiny alpine gem. The trail crew has split boulders to make a path on the far side where you can walk through some 400-year-old larches. With the first frost, all larches turn to gold and when the needles fall there will be a golden trail of them alongside the road.
Forest Service Engineers Tina Zimmermann of Nelson and Len Palajac of Cranbrook monitor road conditions and make whatever improvements that funding will allow. Tina has been frustrated recently that someone cutting birch left all the branches plugging the roadside ditch that is so important to preserve the road surface.
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