“We had to travel where no human being should venture for surely we have encountered the gates of hell” – Simon Fraser, 1808
Hell’s Gate is located within the historic heart of British Columbia. Take the scenic couple hour drive from Vancouver and you will be able to witness the biggest ‘rush’ on the Gold Rush Trail, near Hope BC in Boston Bar. Take a ride on one of the aerial trams for a birds’ eye view of the granite gorge in the Fraser Valley where 200 million gallons of water per minute thunder through the 33 metre wide passage as you imagine what it was like for explorers to climb along the cliffs above the rapids. Indians used ladders and road builders hung log ‘shelves’ to climb along.
Today, men and nature still battle for supremacy along the Fraser Canyon.
Hell’s Gate was given such a name from the journal of Simon Fraser, who referred to the area as the “Gates Of Hell” because of the thundering rapids and terrifying white water.
Take a walk along the suspension bridge and take a look at the water rushing below your feet. In 1948 the original suspension bridge collapsed when the water levels reached a record level of 208 feet. The current suspension bridge was built higher and during our visit the waters were reaching 185 feet.
Facilities included at the Hells Gate Airtram are: Simon’s Cafe, Gold Panner Gift Shop, Education Centre, the delicious Fudge Factory, Gold Panning, Simon’s Wall, Observation Decks & Suspension Bridge. When we visited there were two small, but very informational exhibits: Hell’s Gate Fishway and Chinese Legacies: Building The Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia.
Living in British Columbia our entire lives, it is sad for us to admit how little history of British Columbia we remember, or even learned in school.
We were interested in finding out from the Hell’s Gate Fishway exhibit that:
- In 1913 during the Canadian Pacific Railway construction, a rock slide occurred and blocked the passage for salmon through Hell’s Gate, a disaster which the runs have never fully recovered from.
- The exhibit wonderfully illustrated how the Fraser River system of salmon runs, the hazards, and techniques taken to help increase the runs.
In the Chinese Legacies: Building The Canadian Pacific Railway in British Columbia exhibit, it was difficult to read about how poorly the Chinese were treated during the gold rush at “Gold Mountain,” the name given to the North American land. There were many upsetting points we learned:
- Workers were hired as gangs, instead of individuals. This meant that proper records were not kept and exactly how many Chinese were employed is unknown, though the guess is at 15,000.
- The work was tedious, difficult and dangerous, and the rewards were few.
- Somewhere between 600 and 2,000 Chinese workers died as a result of land slides, dynamite blasts and other accidents. Again, records were not kept, so accurate numbers are unknown. Records were properly kept for white workers.
- Many Chinese workers died from scurvy. Scurvy was a treatable disease caused by a Vitamin C deficiency. However, the CPR hospital would not admit patients that did not have a workplace related injury.
- Most families of the Chinese workers were still in China. This is why many stories have not been told; it is difficult to find first-hand reports of men who worked on the railway.
As if riding the airtram wasn’t scary enough for some people, also peaking our interest is the fact that Hell’s Gate is haunted. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, the tales are quite intriguing to hear.
When you consider that the rock walls reach heights of 1,000 meters and realize how many miners and railroad workers fell to their death here, it would not be surprising if it really was haunted today. It is said that ghost sightings are a regular occurrence, including mysterious shadows or objects falling off shelves.
Our first indication of Hell’s Gate being haunted was the Hell’s Gate haunted stove that is on display. It is said that the Chinese Chef known as Johnnie is the only person who could get the stove to light. Every year on the anniversary of his passing, the stove feels warm, even though it has never been lit since his passing in July 1980. In 2012, reality show Ghost Hunters International visited to feature Hell’s Gate.
Is Hell’s Gate really haunted? Visit and find out for yourself.
How much do you know about where you were born and raised? Have you ever experienced somewhere haunted?
Our visit was sponsored by Hell’s Gate, but our opinions are our own.