The former sawmill town of Lumberton BC is busier now than it has been in years. For ages it was just a clearing with abandoned ruins and debris and ghosts. Now the former community is home to a logging operation (oh, the irony), a trucking firm, a few residences and some out buildings. Some of what used to be has been swallowed up or is now gone, while other bits still remain, including the former saw and planer mills, two massive buildings the can’t be missed, which we’ll concentrate on for this trip.
Unusual in that they are made of concrete these two roofless buildings are not going anywhere soon. I have never heard of any other mill buildings being so built, and this must reflect the progressive nature of the mill owners. Certainly a concrete building was more fire safe than the typical wooden one. I am sure if left alone one could visit them a hundred years from now.
Lumberton was established just over a hundred years ago and was originally known as Wattsburg, the name coming from the sawmill’s owner. Later the town’s name was changed to the present one, after being taken over by BC Spruce Mills in the early 1920s. At that time the operation was expanded and new and better equipment was brought in. The ruins we see now are from this later era. The mill shut down near the start of World War Two on account the dwindling supply of usable timber in the area.
With the town’s only industry closed, there was no other reason for people to stay and all quickly moved away and the town and mill, save for the concrete bits, was dismantled. It remained mostly forgotten for many decades to come.
The building seen here were once the saw and planer mills, the heart of the operation, no the whole town. The walls are thick and if left alone could probably last for eons.
At one time there would have been other structures nearby, support buildings for the milling operation. The flats in front of the buildings would have been for cut plank storage.
Seen in our pictures is an old tractor. All I know about this old Case is that it has been sitting at this location as long as I can remember. My first visits to the area was close to thirty years ago and it was here then.
Also seen at the site was a dilapidated old trailer – I’ve lived in worse! Someone is using one of the old mill building as storage and old truck tires and bit and pieces, and even funky go cart can be seen inside.
In a second interesting irony trees have started to take hold inside one of the buildings.
Some of the logs brought to to the mill travelled along an extensive flume system that fed the operation. Like a giant water slide, logs were floated down from the cutting area to the mill. There are occasional remains to be found of the flume and I recall seeing sections still standing (barely) in the 1980s, in a valley roughly to the northeast. This was near Palmer Bar Lake, which I believe was a water source for the flume.
In the deep of winter they used sleds and tractors to haul the wood in from the cutting area. This author has seen pictures showing sleds piled high with logs – so high it looked to be dangerous. I also saw something called a brake sled, which would be used to hold back the sleds on downhill portions of the trip. These guys were crazy.
From what little I can find, Lumberton seems to have been a nice orderly and clean family friendly place, instead of rough and tumble like most other mill towns in the province. This author has seen pictures of the place in its heyday and it was clearly a model town.
Lots of placer gold mining took place in the area and in the flats just east of town there is much evidence of work being done. There are sample pits all over and other diggings. There are many well known gold producing streams and rivers in the immediate area but the largest and best know is the Moyie River.
I will be interesting to see how much longer these old structures will stand. No longer forgotten, people and industry are moving into the area which is changing the face of what was once a complete ghost town. I have some pictures of Lumberton taken around 1990 showing other parts of the town site (link below). In areas now obliterated or off limits, there were old street signs and fire hydrants to be seen. Very interesting!
Reminder: The buildings seen here in Lumberton are on private property and are not publicly accessible. Do not enter without permission from the landowners.
To see pictures from that earlier visit we spoke of, click this link…
Lumberton ghost town – 1990.
To see Moyie Falls which are nearby, follow this link…
Mining under Moyie Falls.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: August 2012
Location: Lumberton BC, near Cranbrook.