the Big Bend Highway

Map of Big Bend Highway from the commemorative booklet. 29 June 1940. Big Bend, Selkirk Mountains, British Columbia

Before Roger's Pass there was the Big Bend Highway, a long loop of road following the Columbia River between Donald and Revelstoke.  It went north from Golden up one long valley which separates the Selkirk Range from the Rockies, and then south down the next valley leading to Revelstoke.  A dam at the top of the loop at Mica Creek was built in the early 1960s, after the whole route was made redundant by the section of the Trans-Canada that goes over Roger's Pass. Another dam in the 1980s and much of the Big Bend highway was lost to the consequential new lakes.

Originally there had been a wagon road along the Columbia River, as there had been a gold rush on it in the 1890s.  In the 1930s relief camps were established in the Big Bend: single, homeless and unemployed men who, in exchange for housing food and a very small wage, logged the route for the highway and contributed to the building of the road which was to be part of the Trans-Canada Highway.  It was opened in 1940.

The Big Bend was never paved, indeed great stretches of the BC sections of the Trans-Canada remained unpaved until the late 1960s. I often wish it was still there, the Big Bend, as it avoided the steep elevation change of Roger's Pass.  But, like the Coquihalla Highway built in 1985 bypassing another longer but safer section of the Trans-Canada between Kamloops and Hope, and also subject to horrible winter weather and endless closures, these new sections of road cut the mileage.  Fine in the summer, often fatal in the winter.