Tuesday, July 11, 2017

British Columbia's Three Valley Gap Ghost Town


Nestled along the TransCanada Highway just 27 kilometres southwest of the bustling town of Revelstoke, B.C. stands an odd and seemingly dilapidated assortment of buildings, sprawling out from the shores of the majestic Three Valley Lake. The red tin roofs, so out of place among the green mountainsides and glacial blue waters, make the establishment hard to miss. When visiting The Enchanted Forest with my family a couple of months ago, we had to drive past this cluster of buildings known as Three Valley Gap, and decided that it was worth a stop.

There is a lot to see and do at Three Valley Gap

Three Valley Gap is many things: it is a hotel, a ghost town, a restaurant and souvenir stop, and a museum. We initially just saw the sign for the hotel and ghost town, and had no idea how much 'stuff' was available. Our initial plan to stay for about one hour turned into a three-hour adventure, as we explored almost every nook and cranny we could.

The Chateau at Three Valley Gap

While we didn't stay in the hotel, called 'The 3 Valley Gap Chateau', we did wander through it in search of some restrooms. Personally, I felt that it looked a bit run-down and in need of a little updating, but I guess if they were going for the rustic, Old West, ghost town style then maybe that look was purposeful. I can't comment more on the actual chateau, as we didn't stay as guests, and I don't know what their prices are like, what the rooms or other accommodations are like, or what the hotel service is like.

However, we did enjoy time resting in the chateau's giant courtyard, which featured sprawling lawns, trickling streams, stone bridges, antique trains, and well-tended and beautiful flower gardens.

The Chateau's courtyard is beautiful

My kids had a blast playing in the little playground available for patrons, and we were very tempted to rent a kayak or paddleboat from the rental area and go explore Three Valley Lake. We didn't have swimwear or extra clothes with us, otherwise we might have. Going out on the lake looked extremely picturesque.

My son and I wave from the stone bridge in the courtyard at Three Valley Gap

We spent about an hour just playing on the playground, searching for bugs and minnows in the shallows of the lake, and exploring the gardens and bridges in the courtyard. I could not get enough of the view of Three Valley Lake, and I actually quite liked the juxtaposition of the shiny, glaringly red roofs of the hotel wings against the vibrant greens and blues of nature.

Looking for minnows in Three Valley Lake

The chateau also offers helicopter tours of Three Valley Lake and surrounding area, and my son nearly lost his mind with joy watching the helicopters take off and land on the nearby helipad just beyond the hotel. It was all I could do to keep him from running off and leaping into the helicopter's open doors!

Once the kids seemed to have had enough of exploring the lovely courtyard, we moved on to the 3 Valley Gap Heritage Ghost Town. Admission is quite reasonable, considering the amount of time you can spend wandering this 'ghost town' and exploring the antiques and history found there. Adults cost $12.00, children 12 to 17 cost $7.00, kids 6 to 11 are $5.00, and kids under 5 are free (so both my kids were free). Once inside, everything is included unless you want to shop for souvenirs at the General Store.

Delicate and colourful bottles at the apothecary in the ghost town

We paid our admission, then entered the first of many buildings that housed a series of antique and rare historical pieces, making the Ghost Town more of a museum than anything. My kids are both very interested in telephones. (Everything, including a granola bar wrapper, is made into a phone in their imaginations and held up to their ear. They often call their grandfather, nicknamed Pampa, on these pretend phones.) So they were delighted when the first room of museum pieces past the admission gate was filled with a variety of old-style telephones, some they could pick up and pretend to use.

From there we went through an empty concert hall and outside to the actual ghost town. Wooden sidewalks connected a series of reconstructed Old West stores, including an apothecary, barber shop, watchmaker, and smithy. Inside each store, behind bars, ropes, or glass, an impressive assortment of valuable antiques were on display to complete the scene.

Main Street at the Three Valley Gap Ghost Town

According to the website, some of the more famous reconstructed buildings include St. Stephen's Church, Hotel Bellevue, the Golden Wheel Saloon, the Craigellachie School House, Trapper Joe's Cabin, C.B. Hume & Co. General Merchants, Colarch's Tobacco Shop, and more. Almost all of these buildings existed in real life somewhere among this mountainous area, and were moved and rebuilt so they could be preserved in the 3 Valley Gap Ghost Town. There are over 25 buildings to explore.

My kids enjoyed the General Store the most, mainly because it was loaded with candy. They really enjoyed the colourful jars of old-fashioned stick candy, each flavour arranged in jars like a rainbow on display. The prices in the store were really quite decent, and there was a range of products from stuffed animals to dreamcatchers to hot dogs.

Vibrant stick candy adorns the shelves at the Three Valley Gap General Store

We had some fun photographing the kids wandering into the saloon, but I was slightly disappointed that the entire saloon was roped off and you couldn't go in and explore it. It was only viewable from the doorway.

The saloon - unfortunately, you can't go inside.

Another family favourite was the Wagon Repair shop, where the kids could climb up onto one of the carriages and pretend to drive it. Upstairs, there were about 30 carriages (all roped off) arranged chronologically and in great condition, so you could see the evolution of transportation in the Old West.

My kids ride the old-fashioned buggy

One of the buildings that I really liked was the beauty shop, which had incorporated bottles into the structure of the wall, making the entire room inside glow like a stained glass window. It looked neat from the outside, but simply beautiful from within.

An unusual way to build a house - using bottles!

We finished exploring every single building, then wandered out into an open area, looking a little shabby and unkempt. There was a giant, red-topped building called the Roundhouse located on the other side of the gravelled, weedy area, so that's where we headed, unsure if it was open to the public. It was, and I was extremely glad we ventured inside!

Once again, the Roundhouse initially presented itself as more of a museum gallery, with a giant steam engine standing front and centre in the first room. Various displays filled the sides of the room, from a  wedding gown display over the ages, to children's toys throughout the history of the Old West. My son actually found a small crack in the facade surrounding the toy display and squeezed himself in, determined to fly one of the delicate model planes. Lucky we nabbed him on time!

My son loves trains, so the Roundhouse was perfect for him!

The next room, however, was spectacular. It was the interior of the Roundhouse, with a soaring domed roof, decorated with bright red structural support beams. A train track ringed the entire floor of the Roundhouse, and housed about 20 different train engines and cars spanning a wide timeline. Most of the engines and cars were accessible to the public, allowing visitors to enter them, walk through the halls and see what it felt like to be a passenger in a train car from 50 years ago.

The majestic Roundhouse was a sight to see

There was even a Halloween-themed train car that we just had to explore, without our children of course!

To keep the kids busy, there was a child's play area in the Roundhouse with a playhouse, train table, dolls, books, costumes, and much more. It was great at first, but then became a nightmare because our kids were enjoying the play area so much they didn't want to leave!

Tons of old trains parked in their spots within the Roundhouse 

By this time, we had spent hours at Three Valley Gap, and were sure we had seen all there was to see. We were wrong! As we left the Roundhouse, we saw a mini-golf set up near the end of the property, all with a mining theme. Golf putters and balls were just resting in buckets along the side, free for anyone to use. We had a good time half-heartedly playing a few holes, made difficult mainly because our children kept kicking the golf balls or trying to catch them when they rolled near. Both children tried their hand at putting and it was pretty cute.

My daughter tried her hand a mini golf

The last thing we wanted to try was to ride the children's train located right next to the mini golf course, but there was no one manning the station and it appeared to be closed. So that was a little disappointing, because both of our children love trains and they would have been ecstatic to ride the small train around the yard. Maybe next time, I guess! They made up for it by finding a sand pit in the reconstructed stable area, and getting completely covered in sand using digging machines and toy trucks. It was nicely shaded, so my husband and I did not complain!

Once we had finished seeing all there was to see inside the Ghost Town, we walked back to the main chateau building and tried to find a place to eat. There was a cafeteria inside the souvenir shop that we were contemplating when the lady at the cash register told us that there was a full restaurant on the very end of the building with an amazing view of the lake. Naturally we chose to eat there.

The amazing view from the restaurant patio

The food was good, nothing extremely special, but the hostess seated us on the balcony overlooking Three Valley Lake and mountain view. It was gorgeous, and a great place to eat lunch. The food could have been horrible and I think I still would have been happy with our situation.

And of course, we left our stroller in the restaurant foyer and had to drive back the next day to grab it. Typical us.

The story of Eagle Pass and Three Valley lake - zoom in to read it!

Our day trip to Three Valley Gap was quite satisfying. We expected to spend about one hour perusing the Ghost Town and then moving on, but we ended up spending three to four hours enjoying all that Three Valley Gap had to offer. It was an affordable and enjoyable way to spend a day, and I do recommend it for those of you visiting the Revelstoke area of British Columbia.

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