These photos, dating from waaaay back in 1990, show a very interesting place, the Moyie River Falls. It’s a fascinating spot, not just because it’s scenic, but also because of the history. The immediate area is a well know gold producer and is pockmarked with old mine workings and both tunnels and evidence of placer activity can be found. With the high price of gold it’s no surprise that the area is being worked in 2012. A quick visit to a view spot over looking the canyon showed machinery at work and lots of fresh scars.
Not to be confused with the larger Moyie Falls in Idaho, the one seen in this report is located deep in a canyon southwest of Cranbrook BC. Both share the same name and both are feed by the Moyie River but they are separated by some distance. Our Moyie Falls are the lesser known of the two, understandable given its more remote location.
Getting to the falls is a bit of task. Are you ready? You have to travel up a gravel logging road for seven kilometres, then walk down a steep side road to the valley below, cross the river, avoid the placer mine workings, climb a ladder, scoot along a ledge, all before arriving at your destination. The view is worth it!
What was just described takes you to the left side of her falls which is the most scenic angle. You can also make it to the right of them, although this requires scrambling over some rocks and travelling through a short mine access tunnel that pierces a rock rib that stands in the way, prior to arriving at a wet and slippery ledge almost underneath the falls.
Walking up the Moyie River in times of low water is possible, for a way at least, however near the falls there is a deep plunge pool and steep rock walls make this approach impossible.
If you take the left route, near the falls one can see an old mine tunnel (adit) directly ahead. It has a painted “keep out” sign that has been there since at least 1984, at the time of my first visit. This adit heads straight in then immediately turns right into the rock under the falls. In the 1980s I ventured in and went perhaps a 50-100m before pooled water turned me back. Being under the falls it was cascading down the mine’s walls and was accumulating in deep puddles. Near the mouth of the mine is an old engine, perhaps it was used to de-water the workings.
If you look closely at the right side of the falls, one can see another adit. This one is harder to get to and it requires taking that access tunnel I spoke of, then climbing some rocks, and then traversing a slippery ledge. I’ve been inside (again in the 1980s) and apparently it eventually connects with the other opening, although we did not travel in that far. The mine was partially flooded and in fact the access tunnel was too, to our knees. And it was filled with driftwood and small logs, showing just how high the Moyie can run in times of high water. Kinda spooky.
My understanding is the tunnels were not hard rock mines, but rather used to access deep placer gravels in ancient channels upstream from the falls.
There is also another tunnel to be seen just before the ladder, but it’s currently (as of 2012) being worked as I understand it. It’s almost at river level and probably floods during runoff.
The Moyie river itself has been worked for close to a hundred and fifty years and the most productive ground was the section stretching several kilometres above the falls to perhaps a kilometre or two below them. Starting in the 1930s and continuing on and off for many years after, a family called the Oscarsons worked this claim and they drove the tunnels you see here. They happened to be next door neighbours of a friend of mine and in the 1980s Oscarson Sr, told me some history of the mine, although this information has long been forgotten by me. I do however recall him saying, at least at times, it was a very productive operation. Other times it was not, but it was always hard work and that is clear to see.
Oscarson Sr. gave me permission to pan the river here and I did okay cleaning out some deep crevices, making perhaps a quarter oz (worth some $300-$400 today). It was a hard, hard, hard days work!
There is an old grave in the area but I last saw it in the 1980s. I believe it’s George Weaver’s a well known prospector from the 1870s. Nearby Weaver Creek is named after him.
I have seen photos showing a kayak going over Moyie Falls. Crazy!!
In addition to the Moyie River, other creeks and streams in the area that have been good gold producers include Palmer Bar Creek, the aforementioned Weaver Creek and Negro Creek. According to BC government close to 6000 ozs of gold have been recorded as having come from the Moyie River. I bet a lot more went unrecorded (including my 1/4 oz).
I plan to return here and are making arrangements as we speak. It’s been a long time and there is so much to see and explore. We visited the PayRoll mine, located not far from here, in 2012. Also not far away the Lumberton ghost town is an interesting place to visit.
These images were scanned from 35mm prints.
We visited the falls in 2013 and to see that report, follow this link…
Mining under Moyie Falls.
If you wish more information on this place, by all means contact us!
Date of adventure: September 1990.
Location: Moyie River Falls near Cranbrook BC.