Saturday, October 27, 2018

Othello Tunnels ~ Hope, BC ~ Coquihalla Highway

The Coquihalla Highway traverses some very mountainous terrain, closely following the old Kettle Valley Railway through the Cascade Mountains. Construction began in 1984 between Kamloops to Hope, BC. and within 20 months was completed.  It was a huge change for traffic travelling between the Okanagan and the Coast.  The Okanagan or Coquihalla Connector was completed in 1990.

Zopkois Rest area on Coquihalla Highway
We have travelled this route so many times since it was constructed and completed in time for Expo ’86.  In spring, summer, fall and winter times with extreme weather differences, we have made the trek.  The Othello Tunnels was finally added to our ‘stop and look’ list while on the Coquihalla Hwy.   I had been there but it took retirement and a leisure drive in order for Keith to visit for the first time.

Othello Tunnels
Not far from Hope, the Othello Tunnels are in the Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park and open for visits April 1 to October 31 every year for safety reasons.  Our first stop happened to miss these dates so we had to make a second stop, but worth making it back.  Some of the scenes from Rambo movies as well as others were filmed here, which adds to the attraction.

Walk to the Othello Tunnels
The walk from the parking lot to the tunnels is lined by the big trees of the area and wanders along the river.  The Tunnels are not lit but are short enough, taking caution and a moment to adjust to the dark, one can see well enough to get to the other end of the tunnel.  Railway tracks have been removed but there is gravel as a cover on the ground, some carry flashlights.

Coquihalla River
The Othello Tunnels were originally tunnels for the Kettle Valley Railway which was built in order to link up to the Kootenay Region to the Southern Coast.  Silver was being mined in the Kootenay District and transportation was required for this.  CPR financed the Kettle Valley Railway Company in 1900 and the work began.

Rocky scenes on Coquihalla River
Much of this work was done by hacking the rock by hand.  They used ropes and ladders to reach to do the work to create these tunnels in order to complete the railway.  They followed the Coquihalla River through these rocks and the job took 3 years to complete in 1915 and was used until 1958.  

One of 5 tunnels
Andrew McCulloch was the Chief Engineer on this Kettle Valley Railway project which included 13 tunnels, 43 bridges; the average mile cost $136,000.00, 5 times the average cost for railways at the time.  The most expensive mile was at the summit at $300,000.00.  

Steep decline from tunnel bridge to Coquihalla River
Andrew McCulloch was a Shakespeare fan which explains the names given to the posts along this route.  He used Juliet, Romeo, Iago and Lear as well as several more.  A definitely unusual choice of names given the fact it was a railway project but to this day those names are still used.

Bridge connecting the tunnels
The 5 tunnels and 2 bridges spanning 1.4 km from the parking lot is now the Othello Tunnels used for hiking and sightseeing and part of the Trans Canada Trail System. I’ve been told that the path continues past the last tunnel and offers a nice hike that has some great views.  We didn’t go there, maybe next time….  

Water worn rocks
There is no cost or fee to visit the Tunnels.  It is part of the provincial park and is free to all visitors, parking included.  Just another one of the great sights that British Columbia offers to all.

Sights to enjoy
The Othello Tunnels are also accessible from Hope, so one needn’t travel the Coquihalla to enjoy these sights.  It is a nice green scenic drive through the tree lined road to get here leaving from Hope, BC.

Tunnels chipped by hand in 1915
This remarkable engineering feat was  mostly done by hand by Chinese workers, as were most of the railway lines in Canada.  The Tunnels are only a 2 hour drive from Kamloops, so I've included it in my hometown blog.  Put it on your list of places to visit if you haven't already!


  1. This is really neat! I hadn't heard of them nor the Rambo movie connection. Thanks!

  2. A must see for sure...Great info...thank you.