Estella Mine - East Kootenay - Hiking British Columbia

 

Long abandoned Estella Mine hangs high above Wasa Lake in East Kootenay, BC.

 

 

The Estella Mine was staked as a claim in the late 1800s but saw little activity until 1927.  Since then a foray of owners and intermittent activity extracted primarily zinc, lead and silver with traces of cadmium, copper and gold.  Estella Mines Ltd. was established in 1950 and subsequent, periodic ownership extracted ore until the mine was abandoned near 1968.

 

Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada

 

Since that time, the mine has fallen into ruins but shafts and surrounding terrain remain open for limited, cautious and well-geared exploration.  Abandoned mines in Alberta are sealed but in British Columbia the shafts remain predominantly accessible by well-equipped and knowledgeable adventurers. 

Access to the Estella Mine complex, near Tracy Creek at 6,000 ft. (1,830 m) of elevation, begins near Wasa, British Columbia and Wasa Lake Provincial Park which boasts one of the warmest summer lakes in the province.  Wasa Lake is a mountain-surrounded paradise for anglers, hunters, cyclists, hikers, kayakers, campers and sun worshippers in the Columbia River Valley between the Purcells and the Rocky Mountains.

 

Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada

 

The old mining road is lengthy and rugged, best navigated by ATV or dirt bike.  Even the narrow width of the Jeep requires the occasional clearing of rock fall debris to allow safe passage on narrow, upper level curves.  The view of surrounding mountains and the Columbia River Valley is nothing short of breathtaking.  

Driving the steep and dangerously narrow rocky dirt road is under sun but there is heavy weather in the distance.  There is 3,000 ft. (914 m) of non-recoverable plunge to the immediate right.  A launch platform along the way bears evidence to the popularity of hang gliding and parasailing  from the road's edge into the expansive Columbia River Valley.  An old, dilapidated caretaker's cabin, off-road and below to the right, signals proximity to our objective.

 

Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada

 

Final access into the old mining site is on narrow road through overgrown, vehicle-lashing forest.  Several structures, in the large clearing, remain but they are in a high state of deterioration. 

The base level contains a clear pond adjacent to a huge, open, sand pit.  Two partially blocked, mine-shaft openings are an easy climb above and another road extension loops above to provide evidence of narrow gauge rail lines and building foundations. Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada

 

The mission is equipped with rope, harnesses, powerful lamps and two-way radios for entry into the mine shafts.  At no time are we in the same place at the same time.  Caution is required and safety is paramount.  Vertical support timbers are reasonably well-preserved but ceiling beams are rotted or nonexistent. 

Using powerful lamps to sweep all surfaces above, below and to each side, we navigate each shaft a few meters at a time.  The shafts, eventually and characteristically, deteriorate into a floor of clear water.  Without waders progress is limited by this development.

 

Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada Estella Mine - East Kootenay, British Columbia, Canada

 

Following all investigation of the site that time will allow, the return to Wasa precedes the short drive to Cranbrook for a well-earned dinner.  The day has been a thoroughly enjoyable adventure to a location saturated with mining history of early settlement in this incredible area. 

To this day, a small sample of quartz, laced with gold, is kept as physical evidence of a great day with fond memories of friendship and inner child exploration.

 

 

 

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Comments

Was just up there today looks the same as your pictures...have been up here every year since we got our quads back in 2007. Every time we come up here we wonder of the history behind the mine and what it must have been like to work up there, miles from nowhere and your pictures of the mine inside and out put things more into perspective. Came up on the front face last year. Great ride. Lots of switch backs and you enter the mine site near the tailing pond. Went up on the main road today and noticed all of the rain damage, bridge over Lewis Creek was moved by 3 to 4 feet over its foundation but still a very easy crossing. Thanks for your very informative information of the Estella Mine.

Thank you for your kind words and excellent advice, Scotty.

Barry, a beautiful description of the Estella Mine. I am a geocacher and there are several caches in the area and your info is invaluable. As an ex-miner of 17 years one word of caution, in old mines that have rotting timber in them there is a danger of lack of oxygen. There are testing instruments you can get to tell you of many gases or lack of oxygen. Thanks again for the info, greatly appreciated.

This experience is a few years back now. We drove right to the mine site but some of the road was sketchy and very narrow, perched precariously on the sides of steep slopes. The grades were within the reach of a mountain bike. I would try to gather intelligence at Cranbrook. We were able to get a narrow four wheel drive jeep in there but it might be wise to check conditions if possible. It is worth the effort. There is plenty to explore. Good luck and thanks for your comment, Chris. Sorry for the delay. I have been travelling.

Hi Barry, I believe a regular 2wd can make it to the Mt Steven's/Teepee trail head part way up the Estella mine road. Is this the furthest one without an ATV or Jeep can go? And would the remainder be doable on a mountain bike, or is it just too steep or difficult? I am from Cranbrook (long time ago - now in Calgary), but never had a chance to visit this site and I am hoping for next year. Thanks, I love your blog!

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