The mining camp of Rossland was established in 1890, the same year gold was discovered on nearby Red Mountain. Numerous other claims were soon staked and worked and by 1895, Rossland was a bustling frontier town. Soon after the turn of the century, the Rossland Mines were worked out and the City gradually became a residential area for the workers at the smelter in nearby Trail. Rossland today continues as a residential community but it is also the home of an excellent mining museum with its underground mine, a renowned ski area (made famous by Olympic Ski Champion Nancy Greene) and mountain biking.
The nearby forests were all logged at that time to provide lumber for the cities of Trail and Rossland, as well as mine timber for the square set stopes. Fire damage has been light in the area. Old fire areas are the jackpine forest on Blackjack Mountain, Record Ridge, small areas on Lake Mountain and Grey Mountain.
There are many old shafts and pits to be avoided while travelling through this area, particularly on skis. The forest has covered up the dumps from the old workings so that some of the pits are not too obvious. The area behind the mountain has been restored to eliminate these old mine risks.
There was an early period of sedimentation that produced the oldest formation, the Mount Roberts argillites that outcrop on the east side of Mt Roberts and the west side of Red Mt and are the host rocks for molybdenite ores. This was followed much later by volcanism that deposited the Rossland volcanics. Much later, 49 million years ago, there was a period of batholithic intrusion. A contemporary volcanic period shows as caps on OK, Roberts, Grey, Kirkup and Old Glory mountains. Mineralization with gold-copper ores and older molybdenum ores was then introduced into certain favourable rocks.
In 1890, Bourgeois and Morris staked the first claim on Red Mountain.
The Rossland mines produced 6.2 million tons of gold-copper ores with .47 oz gold, .6oz silver and 1% copper. Most of the production was before 1930. From 1966 to 1972, 1.335 million tons of molybdenum ore produced 3.65 million pounds of molybdenum.
The effect of alpine glaciation is shown by the glacier-scoured valleys of Big and Little Sheep Creeks that carried the melt waters of the glaciers, and now, in part, meander through relatively flat, wide valleys. Nearly all the high mountains show the steep headwall of a glacier cirque on their northeast side with a more gently sloping southwest flank where the sun removed the snow to permit normal weathering processes – best shown by viewing the profile of Old Glory and Abercrombie Mt, 40kms to the SE – both show the steep headwall of a cirque carved by a glacier on the shaded northerly side, and a gently sloping southerly side. These glaciers have since melted, and even though Rossland averages a seven-foot snowpack, only a small remnant snow field on the NE side of Old Glory lasts until late in the summer.
HIKING IN ROSSLAND
Rossland has a massive number of mountain bike trails maintained by the Kootenay-Columbia Trails Society. They produce a large, full-colour 1:30,000 map that includes the entire Seven Summits Trail and extends south almost to the US border. The contour interval is unfortunately only 100m. Great for mountain biking, they are not hiking orientated – it took me a long time (it has been 20 years) to figure out walking from Columbia-Kootenay down a road to the Coffee Run using the map. I called the road Coyote Swamp, reviving an old name in Leo Telfer’s small book on hiking in Rossland.
Many of these trails are still good walking paths, uncommonly walked because everyone owns a mountain bike here and they are routed for biking purposes. But Rossland still has a few good walks around town. Walking anywhere around Rossland would be a hike most other places. When I lived there for 3 years, we climbed Columbia-Kootenay Mountain almost every evening.
All descriptions start from the downtown intersection of Columbia Avenue & Washington Street.
Columbia-Kootenay and Monte Christo Mts are north of the Rossland townsite. There was considerable mining activity in this area at the turn of the century and the roads to these abandoned mines form the principle trails.
1. Columbia-Kootenay Mountain 1235m 4050′.
From Columbia Ave/Washington St: Go east on Columbia 3 blocks, left up Monte Christo St 4 blocks, right down 4th Ave 2 blocks, left on Georgia St and keep right on Columbia-Kootenay Rd (gravel) for 1km, past the gate and kiosk. Continue on the rough gravel road as it rounds the east end of the mountain and passes the road that leads to the Coffee Run, mining school area and the old Columbia-Kootenay mine with a closed tunnel and some ore dumps. Continue to the NW corner of the mountain and a 4-way junction.
Turn acutely left and ascend the NW ridge to the summit and great views of Rossland, Warfield and down to Trail.
Descend the same way to the junction at the saddle between Columbia-Kootenay and Monte Christo mountains. This is the old Coyote Swamp Trail. If on a short evening walk, turn left and descend to McLeod Avenue and home. Or continue west around the north side of Monte Christo Mt to come back to Rossland down Kirkup Avenue, Plewman Way and Washington Street. Or continue right on Coyote Swamp heading NW to Red Mountain.
2. Coyote Swamp Trail/Coffee Run/Centennial Trail
For a longer hike, continue north towards Red Mountain on the Coyote Swamp Trail. Pass some ore dumps on your left, the site of the old Evening Star Mine, the mine adit and turn left down the road I have called Coyote Swamp, reviving a name in Leo Telfers guide to hiking. Descend north heading for the smell of Coyote Swamp – a combination of many skunk cabbage and decaying vegetation. Pass the ruins of Booties cabin. Continue north to the Coffee Run mountain bike trail (From the map: rated intermeditate, links Full Monte with Columbia- Kootenay Road via undulating single-track. Elevation change 20m. Length 1.2km). Turn west and walk to Highway 3B to come out near the Rock Cut Pub for lunch. Continue back to Rossland on the Centennial Trail on the west side of Highway 3B.
3. Red Mountain Mining Trails
Wander the area on the south side of Red Mountain. Start at the Rossland Museum and proceed north through this old industrial site – the old mine sites with evidence of their old compressor, steam engines and ore load out bins. A rusted streetlight and road sign base still attached to a tree show that a network of roads existed at one time. Wander up the now forested hillside, following rail grades and old mine roads, past the Center Star, Le Roi, Josie, No. 1 and Gertrude Mine sites. Old mine cars and hoist skips left on waste rock piles, and the blacksmith’s forge are still beside the Josie mine site.
Climb Red Mountain for lunch and then head down to the Red Mountain Mine near the top of the T-Bar hill. It had extracted molybdenum from the large open pits on the west side of the mountain. 1971 was the last year the mine operated. Various mining, milling, flotation and drying processes were used to extract the moly.
Continue down the road, pass the Jumbo compressor site with a nearby adit (tunnel). If you ever ski down the Jumbo run on Granite Mountain and miss the out of bound ropes at the bottom, you will likely end up here. Cap off the day with a bit of art with the large beautifully carved stone boulder. Descend to the gas line, check out the Sasquatch cabin, the old clay tennis court, Center Star load out bins and follow the rail grade back to the Museum.
4. Tour de Caldera
This is the route around the rim (caldera) of the ancient volcano that Rossland is located on the north rim of. Usually a bike trip, it can be walked and the mountain bike map is invaluable to figure it all out. Leave the Mine Museum on well-groomed bike trails: Museum Loop, Larry’s Loop, Centennial Trail, Kootenay-Columbia, Dilly’s, Wagon Road, Rubberhead, Railgrade, and Drake’s Loop that brings you back to the museum. Beginner to intermediate bike trails. Have lunch at the golf course.
5. Railroad Grades
There are few trails in the Rossland area that do not require some climbing. Trails with a moderate grade for walking, jogging and snowshoeing exist on the abandoned CPR grade and GNR grade. The GNR grade is easily walked for 3kms north of Paterson.
The original CPR grade can be followed from Union St, just below Spokane Avenue in Rossland, 7.1kms to Warfield (elevation loss 330m 1080′) where it ends near the municipal works yard. Coordinate with the bus for a ride back to Rossland. The bus has racks for bikes.
Rail was the best means of transportation into Rossland during the early 1900s. The railways were built in 1896 to provide essential links between the smelter in Trail and the mines, as well as with Spokane, Washington across the border. The CPR railway grade stops at Union Avenue now, but years ago it used to wind through south Rossland just below Columbia Avenue, around to Butte Street and into the station (no longer there) on Second Avenue, between Washington and Monte Cristo Streets.
Painted on the rock faces on the CPR grade near Rossland are old hotel names and other advertisements from another era and reminders of the areas colourful history.