Tucked away in some of the most rugged terrain in the heart of the Elk Valley, and amongst the densest wildlife populations in North America, is the paradise town of Sparwood. The second largest centre on the Elk River, Sparwood has an amazing history, although it is one of the youngest towns in British Columbia.
Until 1967, there were three close-knit communities known as Michel, Natal and Middletown that had existed since the turn of the century.
The provincial government decided that the coal-blackened towns were an unsightly entrance into the province, and so began the relocation to Sparwood, 4.5 km away. The bulldozers moved in, and all that remains of these three towns today is the Michel Hotel, a distinctive salmon-coloured building east of Sparwood. The people now live in a safer environment, and many are thankful for that, but the need to remember and cherish the rich heritage of these proud communities remains.
The coal mines have created one of the strongest resource-based economies in BC, and Sparwood continues to be the source of coal exported all over the world from British Columbia. The residents and coal mines take great pride in knowing that their backyard Utopia has remain largely unspoiled, with all mines in the Elk Valley taking radical steps at reclamation to ensure that they restore the natural beauty of the area to its pre-mining splendour.
Visitors to this ‘best kept secret in the Rocky Mountains’ will enjoy the great outdoors, and can take a trip into the past in Sparwood’s many historical sites.
Location: Sparwood is located at the junction of Highway 3 and Highway 43 in the BC Rockies, 13 miles (29 km) north of Fernie and approximately 11 miles (18 km) west of the Alberta/British Columbia border. To the north on Highway 43 (21 miles/34 km) is the community of Elkford.
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Murals: Several murals depicting Sparwood’s interesting mining and railway history are painted on the walls of buildings in the downtown core. Mural and Mining Artifact walking tour brochures are available at the Visitor Centre.
Mining Truck: Marvel at the largest tandem-axle dump truck in the world! Built by General Motors of Canada, the 1974 Terex Titan – all 350 tonnes, 66 feet and 3,300 Horse Power of it – lives in Sparwood, Home of the Titan. Two Greyhound buses and 2 pickups can fit into the box!
Mine Tours: Tours of the Elkview open-pit coal mine, the largest in Canada, are available in July and August.
Snowmobiling: For those who enjoy winter sports there’s great endless terrain and dependable snow conditions provide hours of enjoyment for snowmobiling. Trail maps are available at the Chamber of Commerce, gas stations and other town outlets.
Wildlife Viewing: The region is one of the most beautiful wildlife habitats in North America, and it is unusual to pass through here and not see an elk, bear, deer or bighorn sheep.
Join in the fun of Sparwood’s Coal Miner Days celebration held in June. Be a part of the parade, the ball games, the horseshoe tournaments, teen dances, adult cabarets and much more….fun for the whole family.
Hiking and Mountain Biking: Sparwood offers many peaceful and scenic hiking and mountain biking routes and trails. Biking options include the Michel Creek Loop, the Upper and Lower Elk Valley Road Loop, and the rolling hills in the Sparwood Heights. Hikers can tackle the difficult 8 km Sparwood Ridge Trail, the leisurely Big Ranch grasslands trip, or the Mt. Hosmer Trail to the Ghostrider Peak.
Paddling: Paddlers can go canoeing and kayaking in Michel Creek and the Elk River. Those who devote themselves to adventurous exploration of Canada’s western coast eventually make their way here to hike trophy trails, ski trophy peaks, and paddle trophy waters. Fortunately, most travellers don’t have to resort to extremes in order to get an inside look at these fantastic features.
Golf: Enjoy fantastic views and fantastic golf at Sparwood Golf Club, BC’s easternmost golf course located in the Rocky Mountains. The scenery is spectacular, and the course is finely manicured and a pleasure to play for all levels of golfers. Other courses in the area include Mountain Meadows Golf Club on Highway 43 in Elkford, and Fernie Golf & Country Club situated in a majestic mountain setting in Fernie.
Golf Vacations in British Columbia.
North of the community of Sparwood, is Elk Lakes Provincial Park – an area of subalpine beauty, natural lakes, waterfalls and glaciers, perfect for alpine hiking and challenging mountain climbings. The Elkford Interpretive Trail system offers 40km of trails for the beginner to advanced hiker.
Fishing: The Elk Valley can’t be beaten for fishing; try Michel Creek for whitefish, cutthroat and bull trout, Summit Lake for Gerrard rainbow trout (the largest trout in the world) and Grave Lake for kokanee and rainbow trout. Flowing right past Sparwood, the Elk River is home to wild populations of West Slope cutthroat trout, whitefish and some of the largest bull trout found anywhere. A classic dry-fly river, the Elk is accessible along most of its length. The lakes in the surrounding area are an angler’s paradise too, so you won’t be disappointed. If you’re looking for fishing with a difference, try a 3-day floating trip down the Elk River, or heli-fishing in the neighbouring alpine lakes.
Indoor Activities: Sparwood has a warm spot for you at the Elk Valley Family Leisure Centre at the corner of Red Cedar and Pine. An indoor pool with slides and tubes, a whilrpool and sauna, a fitness room and ball courts, and many other facilities await the visitor seeking fun for the whole family.
Fernie lies nestled in the Elk Valley and is another of British Columbia’s legendary ski areas. The Fernie Alpine Resort gets heaped with snow and is renowned for its fabulous powder conditions.
Circle Tours: See the best of the area on the Okanagan and Kootenay Rockies Circle Tour or the Kootenay Rockies Hot Springs Circle Tour. Travel the sunny interior of British Columbia, north through the Okanagan to Sicamous, following Highway 1 into the mountains of the BC Rockies. From Golden, head south through the Columbia Valley to Creston, and west through Boundary Country and the Southern Okanagan to complete the loop.
Circle Tours in British Columbia.