The Gray Creek Pass has re-opened after a wildfire season for the ages as well as a bridge replacement project that closed the pass for most of September.
Despite numerous warnings of posted signs along the forestry road that links the East and West Kootenays, some of the public continued to drive aronud the barricades only to be turned back upon arrival at the Baker Creek bridge project.
"This new improvement makes all nine bridges solid cement – emphasizing the importance of this seasonal route, which is usually open between July 1st and mid to late October depending on early snowfalls at the 6800 foot summit," a local resident said.
"Since 2017 makes this officially part of the Trans Canada Trail coupled with back road enthusiasts and tourists, traffic continues to grow. Pre cast concrete sections for this bridge were supplied by Rapid – Span Precast Ltd of Armstrong BC."
The Gray Creek Pass is one of the most popular routes in the BC Interior, which is known to many tourists — like the European couple who had planned this trip from their home in England but were unfortunately turned away by the forest fire closure.
Also 2017 was the second year for the BC EPIC 1000 a cycle race of 1000 km from Merritt BC to Fernie. This late June race can be followed on line as many can track this by clicking on riders to find their position and the mileage completed and to come for each.
This Forestry road was opened to the public in 1990 with Claude Richmond then Minister of Forests cutting the ribbon in front of a substantial crowd brought to the summit by chartered busses from Kimberley and Gray Creek on Kootenay Lake. He was presented with a Gray Creek Pass tee shirt by Dr. Harold Prussin then president of the Kootenay Lake Chamber of Commerce.
This has road signs, cement curbing as well as the Oliver Lake Recreation site – unlike most Forest roads. Russell Mussio of the Back Road Mapbooks rates this “The most Important Backroad in BC” Oliver Lake is not visible from the road but it is well worth taking ten minutes to walk to this tiny alpine gem. The trail crew has split boulders to make a path on the far side where you will walk through some 400 year old larches. With the first frost all larches turn to gold and when the needles fall there will be a golden trail of these alongside the road.
Forest Service Engineers Tina Zimmermann of Nelson and Len Palajac of Cranbrook make whatever improvements that funding will allow and monitor road conditions. Zimmermann has been frustrated recently as someone cutting birch left all the branches in the roadside ditch that is so important to preserve the road surface.
Anyone wanting to make the treck should check the Gray Creek Store website for updates on road information.
Photo Caption: The completion of the Baker Creek bridge project has allowed the Gray Creek Pass to re-open. — Submitted photo