The remains of the Leitch Colleries is a provincial historic site which is easily accessed from the #3 highway west of Bellevue. Admission is minimal, and donations are gratefully accepted. 2007 admission rates are: adults $2.00, seniors $1.50, children 7 and over $1.00, families $5.00. Children 6 and under are free.
What is left here are the wall of coke ovens, part of the foundations of the powerhouse building and the manager's home, the tipple and washery. A walking path leads you through the site and guides are available during regular operating hours to answer any questions you may have.
The Leitch Colleries seemed doomed from their inception. They were plagued with a variety of problems, and most of the coking ovens here were never even used!
Plenty of free parking is available, including RV and bus parking. There are also rest rooms onsite. The entire site is wheelchair accessible.
The official season for the site is from mid May to after the September Labour Day weekend, but the site is accessible year round. There are only guides on site during official season and the restrooms are locked outside of this time period. Hours during "open season" are 9:30 am to 5:00 pm daily.
The Bellevue Mine was originally owned by Western Canadian Colleries, and closed its operations in 1962. It was reopened to the public a few years ago. The mine, like others in the area, was no stranger to disaster. It suffered a major explosion in 1910 and 30 men were killed.
Visitors don hard hats fitted with a head lamp and battery pack and tour approximately 600 feet of the mine. You will see mining artifacts, as well as a coal seam, one of the coal rooms, and a coal chute. It is VERY cold inside the mine, so make sure you have pants and a jacket with you.
As you tour the mine you hear water running continuously. When they decided to restore the mine for the public, they had to flood the lower levels of the mine. They did this because it keeps the air from "working" at the shafts by keeping the area oxygen free. The pressure from the water keeps the walls and ceilings of the lower shafts from collapsing and the anaerobic environment keeps everything perfectly preserved.
The tours run every half hour, beginning at 10:00 am with the last tour starting at 5:30 pm. Cost is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors and youths, $20 per family, and children 5 and under are free. The entire tour is wheelchair accessible. The mine is open mid May until after Labour Day in September. There is plenty of free parking available.
The Hillcrest Mine Disaster has the dubious distinction of being the worst mining disaster in Canadian history. 189 miners were killed June 19, 1914 when an explosion rocked the mine. No one knows for sure what caused the explosion, but it is suspected that the cause was a build up of methane gas. Miners had complained for several days prior to the explosion that they could smell gas in the mine.
Most of the miners were buried in a mass gravesite in the Hillcrest cemetary. In 2000 a memorial to the miners was erected at the cemetary to commemorate the disaster. The site serves as a memorial to all mining disasters in Canadian history. This is a tour I had been meaning to take for a long time. I am very glad that I finally went to tour the site. It is a very moving testimonial to the men who risked their lives every day to provide the world's steam engines with the fuel they needed to keep the economy moving.
What really struck me as I stood before the monument was that on that day not only did 189 men die, but almost as many women became widows and single mothers with little or no means to support their families. The mines provided little, if anything, to the surviving family members. Families generally rented houses owned by the mine and when the husband was killed, the remaining family was required to move out of the company house.
The Hillcrest cemetary is still the cemetary for the town, so there are more graves here than for the men of the Hillcrest Mining Disaster. A lot of old graves are unmarked or unmaintained. When miners died, their families generally moved away and so now there is no family left here to look after their graves. I found that really sad.
In Coleman you can follow the original path that miner's once took to get to work at the McGillivray Mine. The path is approximately 1/2 km one way and follows the Nez Perce Creek. Bring your insect repellent! We almost got eaten alive the day we took this walk!
To reach the trailhead, drive to Flumerfelt park in Coleman. The park has a small waterpark in it, and a few picnic tables and rest rooms.
The trail head is at the back end of the parking lot. The first part of the trail is paved. As you cross the first foot bridge, look down on the left side of the bridge and you will see part of the original old bridge remains that the miners used. There is a deep rut in the ground here, caused by years and years of men walking the same path. As you exit the first bridge, look up at the trees along the path. You will notice hooks and pegs on some of the trees along this part of the path. These are the trees that lights used to be hung up on, to provide lighting for the miners when it was dark. The pegs were for climbing up the trees and the hooks were for hanging the lights on. The paved path ends at the second foot bridge. From here, a steep stair case takes you up to the site of the McGillivray mine. If you look close in the trees to the left of the stair case you can see the remains of the original old ladder that the miners had to climb to reach the mine.
At the top of the staircase, you can walk around the area & see various remains of the mine buildings. Straight ahead of you is a large concrete wall and straight ahead from this is the old entrance to the mine. It has been sealed with rocks. Follow the coal covered roadway to your right (from the staircase) to see more building remains. The manager's house was back in this area too. There are depressions and foundations here and there, which is basically all that is left of the mine.
The #3 highway passes through the Frank Slide, but it is not the original roadway. To access the original old road through the slide, turn south just past the road to the Interpretive Centre, into the Frank Industrial Park. This is the original townsite for Frank and only part of the original town was buried by the slide.
As soon as you enter the industrial park, take the paved road leading east. You will see an old rusting fire hydrant which is one of the original hydrants from the old town. Beside the fire hydrant is a depression in the ground where the old hotel used to be. Look to the east from this site into the trees and you may be able to see the remains of an old tower in the trees. You are standing at the outermost edge of the slide area. Everything east of here was buried in the slide. As you drive east you will see the start of the rocks and boulders in the trees. On the left is a memorial grave for the people of Frank who lost their lives in the slide. The road continues east through the entire slide area. On the eastern edge of the slide area are the remains of an old limestone factory which mined the limestone from the slide for about 3 years in the early 1900's! The road ends at the road that leads into Hillcrest. Turn right and you can continue to the Hillcrest Mining Disaster Cemetary.
The road allows you to have a good look at Frank Lake, which was created when the slide blocked off the river through the area.
This drive gives you a really good up close look at the slide. It is very humbling, particularly when you think of the 70 or so bodies which are still buried somewhere below. According to local legend, this area is quite haunted; there have been many reports of people seeing ghosts along this road, day and night. I know that the hair on the back of my neck always stands up when I travel through there!
A free brochure is available at the Interpretive Centre gift shop, which gives the details and driving directions for this road.
In the early morning of April 29, 1903, the side of Turtle Mountain collapsed, partially burying the tiny town of Frank, as its inhabitants lay sleeping. About 70 people were killed. In about a minute and a half, the rockslide covered just over one square mile of ground about 500 feet deep.
The interpretive centre discusses the slide, how and why it happened, and also teaches an understanding of the coal-mining way of life. A trail outside allows you to walk around the slide area. From the observation deck outside, you can view Turtle Mountain and observe the part of the mountain that fell as well as observe the entire slide area below.
The new and improved interpretive centre is re-opened to the public, after extensive renovations!
Hours of Operation:
May 15 - September 14
9:00am - 6:00pm
September 15 - May 14
10:00am - 5:00pm
Closed: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years Eve & Easter Sunday.
2008 Rates (GST included)
Family (2 adults accompanying youth) $22.00
Youth 7-17 $5.00
Under 7 Free
Plenty of free parking is available for all sizes of vehicles.
The entire site is wheelchair accessible.
There is no shortage of wildlife in the Crowsnest Pass area. You will find virtually anything you want - black bears, grizzlies, cougars, deer, elk, moose, fish of every type imaginable, ducks, grouse and other game birds (I saw a wild turkey running along the road one day!), eagles, hawks and small birds of every species imaginable.....
Whether you want to observe with binoculars, photograph, fish, or hunt the wildlife, the Pass is one of the best places to do it. There are numerous guides and outfitters in the Pass. Supplies & licences can be purchased from a variety of businesses in the Pass.
For information about hunting & fishing seasons and regulations, safety issues, etc, contact Alberta Sustainable Resources in Blairmore. You will find them in the Provincial Building, or phone them at the number listed below.
As you drive down the old road through the Frank Slide, you will eventually reach the eastern edge of the slide. A short distance further east down this little road, the road takes a sharp turn to the right. Look to your left before the turn, and you will see the 3 towers from the old limestone kilns which briefly mined limestone from the slide.
You can walk up to the kilns, but be respectful of the people who live very nearby. Don't trespass onto their property.
The Pass Powderkeg ski hill is right in the town of Blairmore. Talk about convenient!
But "hill" is the operative word here. This is not a particularly challenging spot to ski, nor do they have any really long runs. Native Albertans would never drive here to ski, but if you've never tried skiing before, or you really don't care where you go skiing, then this may be the answer. It's also a great place to take your kids if they are just learning to ski.
The rates will certainly be less than the larger ski hills in Banff, Lake Louise and Fernie.
The Burmis Tree is a well-known landmark of the Pass, and silently stands watch over the area. It is located at the eastern edge of the Pass, a few miles east of Bellevue along the #3 highway.
The tree is a 300 year old limber pine. The chinook winds have taken their toll on this tree, as evidenced by its steep lean to the east. It has been dead for a long time and it even fell down at one point. People in the area are so fond of the old tree that it was decided that they needed to do something to save it for future generations.
The tree is standing sentinel over the Pass once again, thanks to some supports, a steel core & a considerable amount of time from volunteers. Now, as the chinook winds blow into the tree, forcing it to lean to the east, the tree can be "adjusted", so that it doesn't blow over again. It's expected to remain standing for at least another 100 years.
When travelling through the Crows Nest Pass District, stop in at the Frank Slide Interpretive Centre.
Just to see the site itself is amazing. The whole side of a mountain, Turtle Mountain, collapsed one morning, taking out the town of Frank with it.
It is pricey to go inside, and I actually haven't been in the centre itself, but I've walked around the grounds. Its awe inspiring, to think what mother nature can do in an instant, and how ill prepared we are for such forces!
I took lots of pictures of this spot and I think many are very interesting, so I had to "continue" my tip in a new one, so I can put up 5 more pictures from the Miner's Path!