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Exploring History in New Denver, British Columbia

Not only is B.C. wild and beautiful, it’s rich in history too. Last summer we took a road trip through the Kootenay Rockies region, hoping to get a taste of some of the wildest camping Canada has to offer.

Along our route, between major stops Nelson and Revelstoke, we decided to explore the area around New Denver. We had heard of a ghost town in Sandon.

Arriving at New Denver, BC

Historic Sandon

Just 13 kilometers east of New Denver lies Sandon. The town is lovingly preserved by its residents––which you can pretty much count on one hand!

A good place to start your tour is The Prospector’s Pick which functions as the Visitor’s Centre and Gift Shop. With any luck you’ll get to meet Vida Turok, a Sandon resident, while taking a look at the memorabilia and vintage collectibles. Vida is warm and friendly, and will tell you all about the town of Sandon. Those of you with a heart for adventure will connect with her adventurous spirit. She moved to Sandon after falling in love with the town while on a 100 days hike through B.C.

Brill Trolley Interpretive Display

After picking up some ice-cream, or a hot coffee, take a look at the Brill Trolley Interpretive Display. These vintage buses from cities like Vancouver, Calgary, and Saskatoon found a permanent home at Sandon when they proved popular with visitors. Now you can tour the inside of Trolley #2201 during season.

Silversmith Powerhouse, Sandon, BC

As you continue down the path and up the hill you’ll see Sandon’s crown jewel, the Silversmith Power & Light Generating Station. It’s been operating since 1897, and today still runs 24 hours a day, providing green energy for Sandon and New Denver. Impressively, all of the machinery is original and it’s family-owned and operated.

At its height as a booming silver town, Sandon, was a state-of-the-art city with a population of 5,000. It was the first town in B.C. with the capability to provide electric power to every citizen. Today this hydroelectric power station is the first utility in B.C. to receive federal green hydroelectric certification.

You can round out your tour with a look at the Steam Locomotive and a visit to the Museum. The museum is the only attraction that is not free at $5 admission.

Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre

During its decline, Sandon served as a Japanese Canadian Internment Camp during WWII. We learned more about this period in history at New Denver’s Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre.

There is an admission fee of $9 per adult to tour this National Historic Site. In fact, it’s the only site in all of Canada where you can learn about this part of WWII history.

In 1942, 22,000 Japanese-Canadian citizens were forced from their homes along the coast of B.C. and relocated to internment camps. As you tour this National Historic Site you are actually walking through what once was The Orchard internment camp.

Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre, New Denver, BC

You can get a sense of what life was like under those conditions walking through the 14’ x 28’ shack that usually housed 2 families. One side shows you the conditions the Japanese families would have found it in, while the other side shows you what it looked like once it was inhabited.

As you exit the different halls holding artifacts, you’ll walk through the beautiful Peace Garden.

We love experiencing history on our travels, and in the New Denver area we found what almost feels like a forgotten history to explore. And, though sad, it was interesting to find a connection between Sandon and the Nikkei Internment Memorial Centre in New Denver.

Planning Your Perfect Itinerary

You can enjoy some epic camping and the historic sites above over a weekend. You can explore Sandon in the morning and New Denver in the afternoon on one day. And enjoy hiking and relaxing at your campsite on day 2. Depending on where you’re traveling from, you can also make this part of a larger BC road trip, adding in stops in Nelson, Revelstoke, and hot springs around the area.

Box Lake Recreation Site near Nakusp

When to Go: Between Victoria Day and Thanksgiving (Canadian Thanksgiving is the 2nd Monday in October).

Visiting between these dates gives you access to all there is to do at Sandon and some of the best hiking weather. However, winter camping is definitely a thing in B.C., and some of Sandon is open and/or available by appointment in the winter.

Summit Lake Provincial Park near Nakusp

Where to Stay: Be sure to check out Camping & RV in BC’s Campground Map here. We typed in New Denver and set the search radius to 50km to really get a full picture of what’s around. We chose to stay about 30 minutes from New Denver. Our favorites were Summit Lake Provincial Park and we completely fell in love with serene, waterfront Box Lake Recreation Site both near Nakusp.

Road Trip Time: For those of you making your way from Spokane or Kelowna, you’re roughly 4 hours to adventure and history. Heading in from Calgary? Plan on about 6 hours of drive time. Friends in Vancouver and Seattle, you’re about an 8-hour drive away. Note: During 2020 the border is closed to travel between the United States and Canada due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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If this area interests you, check out our drive:
Mountains, Lakes & Rivers in the West Kootenays and Boundary Country

For campgrounds in the Nakusp. New Denver and Sandon areas as well as elsewhere throughout British Columbia go to the Camping Map.

Share your BC camping and travel pictures using hashtags #campinbc, #explorebc and #BCNice.

Published: September 16th, 2020

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