If you love diving into haunted histories, this is for you. In addition to some scenic fall road trips you can go on, there are many small towns and former townsites out there to explore in BC. And late-fall is the ideal time to visit. So with that in mind, here are 9 ‘ghost towns’ to check out in BC this spooky season.
Sandwiched between BC’s mountain resort communities of Fernie and Cranbrook is the underwater ‘ghost town’ of Waldo (now adjacent to Koocanusa Village) – bringing a whole new meaning to “Where’s Waldo.” A once prosperous lumber village in East Kootenays, Waldo was located on the eastern shores of Kootenay Lake. In the 1960s and 70s, the U.S. government constructed The Libby Dam in Montana, thus creating Lake Koocanusa, which completely covered the former town.
Where: Lake Koocanusa, BC
Originally a gambling district in one of the oldest surviving Chinatowns on the continent, Fan Tan Alley is now home to a myriad of local shops, restaurants, and galleries, and at less than three feet wide at its narrowest, it happens to be the narrowest commercial street in North America.
Located between Fisgard and Johson Streets, visitors of Fan Tan can imagine a time when gambling parlours and opium dens dominated the alley. And for an even ‘spookier’ experience, head to the nearby Helmcken Alley in Bastion Square, which is said to be haunted on account of its former jailhouse and grave site.
Where: Victoria, BC
Now, we come to the historic site of Leechtown, a 19th-century gold-mining town and former site of railway logging operations. On July 18th, 1864, the Vancouver Island Exploring Expedition (VIEE) discovered “payable gold” at Leech River, which led to a gold rush of its own – and thus the creation of Leechtown.
Flash forward four months, and the townsite was home to over 1,200 miners, six general stores, three hotels, and no fewer than 30 bars and saloons, according to Magistrate Foster of Sooke. However, the town’s success was short-lived, as by 1865, the gold rush had passed its peak, with many moving away.
Where: Leechtown, BC
Located in the heart of BC’s famed ‘Valley of the Ghosts’ is the former silver mining town of Sandon, which has quite the ‘wild west’ past. Think saloon brawls, brothels, and a booming industry that faded as quickly as it came. The home base for many a silver prospector, the town played many a role throughout the decades and even became an internment camp during the Second World War. However, it was derelict by the end of the 50s, and these days, just a handful of residents remain from a peak of over 5,000.
Where: Sandon, BC
As you may have guessed, there’s not a ton of ghost towns in Vancouver proper. But Ioco is one of the closest ghost towns if we’re talking accessibility. And it’s honestly kind of cute. If we could live in one of these houses we probably would. So if you’re looking for a fun drive, head over to Ioco.
Where: Ioco, Port Moody
The legendary gold-rush town of Barkerville is situated on Williams Creek, and while early settlers didn’t know it at the time, it ultimately led to the multi-billion dollar industrial revolution that built this province.
Open 365 days a year, visitors can check out a heritage site with over 125 original buildings and businesses, including period displays, museums, restaurants, and shops.
Where: Barkerville, BC
A ghost town through and through, Coal Creek is only accessible via a walking trail from nearby Fernie, but has got a ruined townsite to explore once you’re there. Things aren’t expertly preserved though, as many of the buildings either burnt down in a fire or were moved to Fernie afterwards.
Where: Outside Fernie, BC
While Sandon was built on silver, Barkerville was built on gold. The main town of the Cariboo Gold Rush in the 19th century, Barkerville has been a National Historic Site of Canada for almost a century already (yes, it’s that old). It’s good news for us, since this is easily the best-preserved ghost town in BC, and maybe even the country. The downside? Hoo boy, is it a drive to get there!
Where: Barkerville, BC
Speaking of really, really old places (at least for Canada), we’ve come to Fort Shepherd. Originally built as a trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1850s, Fort Shepherd only lasted until the 1870s, meaning it’s been a ghost town for some 150 years. Unlike Barkerville, all you’ll found here are the dilapidated remains of chimneys, foundations, and a stone cairn.
Where: Fort Shepherd Conservancy Area
And that’s a wrap on some spots with haunted histories to check out in BC. Explore with caution!