They’ve chased it down rivers, up mountains, and into the unknown. Many folks chased it from here, most notably along the Wild Horse River, gathering by the thousands in the historic mining town of Fisherville to ride out the boom, before it went bust.
Eventually, after a couple good years, when the glory and gold ran scarce, people moved on. Fisherville was ultimately returned to nature, abandoned, but never really forgotten. People still go there. They walk through the ruins. They picnic; adventure. They take in the spirit of what once was, while basking in the scenic rugged beauty of what now is.
Still today, the area is home to many gold claims. And often you’ll see recreational gold panners along the Kootenay and Wild Horse River (formally known as Wild Horse Creek) looking for a flake or, even better, a nugget, that history left behind.
This one-day itinerary is for those who want to walk in the wild, play by a river, delve into the past, and perhaps, just maybe, if luck’s on your side, find out what glitters, is gold.
READY, SET, EXPLORE!
Wake up in historic accommodation. There’s a number of choices in Cranbrook for history buffs: Perhaps a railcar suite at Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort, or maybe a revitalized boutique room at the Historic Mount Baker Hotel, built in 1923. If bed and breakfast is your style, check out the Baker Hill Heritage Bed and Breakfast, a century-old heritage home located one block from downtown's Baker Street. For those wanting to truly immerse themselves into history, the Windsor Hotel at Fort Steele Heritage Town has rooms available for the first time since 1955! And ofcourse St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino offers 25 Deluxe rooms in the restored historic Spanish-colonial styled Mission building, once a residential school and now owned by the Ktunaxa Nation.
Before you head out on this day’s adventure, check out the YouTube video on Fisherville created by Fort Steele Heritage Town, which does an excellent job of sharing some of the folklore and history of Fisherville, while guiding you over a section of the Old Dewdney Trail (linking the parking area to the Fisherville Townsite) and through the most visible and notable remains of the once bustling gold-rush community.
Have breakfast at Fire & Oak, located steps away from your railcar suite at Prestige Rocky Mountain Resort. Fire & Oak is a well-enjoyed restaurant that offers traditional breakfast options as well as some modern takes on some classics. Once you are done your breakfast, make your way over to Little Soul Cafe & Market located in Cranbrook's historic Mount Baker Hotel, grab some snacks or picnic items for the next leg of your adventure.
Head out to Fisherville & PAN THE WILDHORSE!
From Cranbrook, it’s less than a 30-minute drive to the Fisherville Historic Site parking area, which is situated about 6 km down the Wildhorse Forest Service Rd. Today, thanks to some excellent work by the East Kootenay Historical Association, visitors will see trail maps, several information kiosks, and numerous other signage that outline the site’s vibrant past as a town built in the wilderness on gravel and dreams. The graves, the rock piles, the old stone chimney, the apple orchard, the Dewdney Trail and the Victoria ditch are among the things left behind to whisper the story of the Wild Horse Gold Rush and the mining town of Fisherville. The signage begins at the parking area, and can be found along the Dewdney Trail and within the Fisherville Townsite.
Directions from Fort Steele Resort & RV Park: Head east on Wardner Fort Steele Rd for about 300 metres. Take your first left onto Wildhorse Forest Service Rd, a gravel road that winds along a canyon and the Wild Horse River. Although the road is a bit rough in sections, and narrows occasionally to single vehicle traffic, it’s maintained and can be driven by car. Follow Wildhorse Forest Service Rd for about 6 km, until you come to The Wild Horse Creek Historic site entrance on the right hand side of the road, which is well marked with signage. Cellular service is available throughout most of the drive and within Fisherville.
When you’ve completed your Fisherville experience, return on the Wildhorse Forest Service Rd back towards Fort Steele until you come to the Wardner Fort Steele Rd, turn left, and you’ll be able to access the Wild Horse River from either side. Here, along this river, you can bust out that gold pan and try your luck at the Wild Horse River Recreational Panning Area, a 31 hectare BC Recreational Panning Reserve open to the general public to use for recreational gold panning.
Return to Cranbrook and close out your Kootenay-adventure experience with dinner at the Heidout Restaurant & Brewhouse. With a diverse and extensive menu featuring a thoughtful selection of local fare, as well as award winning craft beer brewed onsite, this is the perfect family-friendly hot spot. Still seeking a golden rush? We recommend a tall cold pint of the Wild Horse Belgian Wit or Prospector Pilsner to cap off your day.