Othello Tunnels

Othello Tunnels
I, Clayoquot [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
Othello Tunnels IMG_0741.jpg Autumn colours near the Othello tunnels Othello tunnels Othello Tunnels 2

Canada · Othello Tunnels

Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park, popularly called the Othello Tunnels, is a series of unused railway tunnels outside of Hope that have since become a popular hiking trail are celebrating 100 years this month. It consist of 5 tunnels and a series of bridges through the Coquihalla River Canyon, a gorge lined with flat, vertical rock cliffs.

The Coast Mountain Range proved quite a challenge to build a railway through and walking over the bridges in the Othello Tunnels area, it becomes quite evident how difficult it must have been. The sheer rock cliffs, the violently rushing water below, and the remoteness makes it seem incredible that any infrastructure could be built in such an environment, let alone over 100-years ago with limited engineering equipment.

The Othello Tunnels trail is a short, easy 3.5km return trail that passes through several tunnels and over the rushing river below. It’s the perfect hike for a family and is a great place to make a stop driving from Vancouver to the interior as it’s about a 10 minute drive off of the Coquihalla Highway. Once you have walked through the final tunnel, the trail continues for quite a distance towards the town of Hope, however very few people continue along the trail as the point of interest is really the tunnels.

Construction on the tunnels was completed in July 1916. The tunnels were built by Canadian Pacific — which constructed the cross-Canada railway that was promised if B.C. joined confederation — to link the Kootenay region with the South Coast.

Though Kennedy said the tunnels are an “engineering marvel,” she said there is a dark history behind them as well. The most difficult and dangerous construction jobs were given to Chinese labourers to do — many of whom were killed while using explosives to blast through sections of the mountains.

The tunnels have been named the Othello Tunnels because Andrew McCulloch, the chief engineer on the project, was an avid Shakespeare fan.