Webspace generously donated by synercom/edi
Thank your for visiting.  If you enjoy this site
 please make a donation.

E. Cleven photo: view Bridge River Townsite from penstock portal, 1946 (South Shalalth)
Photo: Andy Cleven

Bridge River Townsite
(South Shalalth or "Camp")

Andy Cleven Photo: View of Bridge River Townsite at S. Shalalth
Photo: Andy Cleven
Andy Cleven Photo: View of Bunkhouses at Bridge River Townsite, South Shalalth
Photo: Andy Cleven
The Bridge River Townsite at Shalalth - known in its time simply as "Bridge River" or "camp" to residents, or more recently as "South Shalalth" after its BCR station even though it is due west of Shalalth proper - was originally built in the 1920s with the first phase of construction on the Bridge River hydroelectric project. Its less prosaic name within the valley today is the "BC Hydro Townsite"; veterans of the Hydro era and valleyites in general often refer to Shalalth and the Portage together simply as "Seton".  These pictures appear to have been taken in the late 1940s at the time of my father's arrival to work on the project; the old (and once fairly elegant) Bridge River Hotel - the large building in the centre of the photo on the left - burned down shortly afterwards. Of all the many buildings visible, only the PGE (now BCR) "station" (the small shack by the tracks in the foreground) and the company's "Guest House" (immediately above the station in this view) were around by the late 1950s - and still survive today; some of the houses hidden in the trees might also have remained.  The large building to the left of the station I'm not familiar with, but my guess is it was part of the railway company's offices or maybe staff accommodations, as this was a busy railyard in its time.  The Guest House, just above it, was originally the superintendant's house and used for visiting VIPs; we lived in it for a short while around 1960 when our more modern house on top of the hill was being refurbished, and I'll always remember the size of the walk-in closet in the master bedroom, which was larger than the living rooms in nearly any other house in camp - or seemed to be to a five-year-old boy, at any rateSeton Lake is immediately to the left in these pictures, in fact straight behind the viewpoint; I can guarantee that each and every window in these pictures enjoys an absolutely unforgettable view, as anyone who has ever lived in "Bridge River" can confirm.  For the wartime occupants of the barracks-like buildings that are the main subject of the photo at right, it would have been a sad one - these were the internment camp for Japanese relocated from the Coast.  Unlike many other such camps, though, most of those in the Bridge River Country did not have barbed-wire fencing, since none was required given the isolation of the Seton and Bridge River Valleys.  Other camps were at Moha,Minto City, Gold Bridge and Bralorne, as well as at Lillooet and other places in the Fraser Canyon.


Aerial pic from Photos by Kat
This nearly straight-down view of the townsite helps give the location some perspective and scale within the grander scheme of things locally, i.e. how small it is in the surrounding landscape, and where it's situated at the base of Mission Pass; the full image is on the Mission Mountain Road page, showing the rest of the pass.  The townsite is at left of course, with the main Shalalth station area and the western end of the Rancherie at lower right.   
E. Cleven photo: view Bridge River Townsite from penstock portal, 1946 (South Shalalth) This view from the top of the No. 1 Penstocks gives a good view of the Townsite as it was in the late 1940s, although quite a number of houses are hidden in the trees at right.  The huts of the Japanese internment camp are at lower left; I'm not sure but I think these may have originally been built to intern those arrested during widespread labour unrest in the Lower Mainland in the 1930s, or might have even been workmen's barracks from the first phase of hydro construction in the 1920s.  The Bridge River Hotel is just above them, with the Guest House and two super's houses adjacent to the tennis court and community hall in the upper right quarter of the picture.  
By my time, the internment camp buildings were gone and between them and the two super's houses were two rows of newer homes in the same style as those of the supers.  The oval to the right of the hotel was still there, and like most of the private yards in Camp was a very well-kept flower-garden.  Where the internment camp was were a few rancher-style small prefabs, others of which were found elsewhere up by the Community Hall.
E. Cleven photo: view Bridge River Townsite from penstock portal, 1946 (South Shalalth) This is the full-frame version of the closeup just above, and shows the viewpoint's location at the upper end of the No. 1 Penstock, where the portal from the original tunnel bored through Mission Mountain from the Bridge River emerges from the mountainside.  The tailrace showing as a stream of white water into Seton Lake is from the original 1920s-vintage powerhouse; this flow was diverted to Powerhouse No. 1 when it was completed (here under constrution at the left edge of the photo).  The benchland at upper right was where our house and those of other management families were built during the mid-1950s.
 




View of upper Townsite from No. 2 penstock portal



E. Cleven photo: aerial of Bridge River Townsite during expansion, 1946 (South Shalalth)
E. Cleven photo: aerial of Bridge River Townsite during expansion, 1946 (South Shalalth)
I was a bit stunned to find these in the family photo collection, and it took me a second to recognize the location, which is of course just above the townsite - Powerhouse No. 1 can be seen in the corner of the bay in the left-hand picture, and the upper fields of the Rancherie can be seen in the right-hand one (an enlargement of this can be found on the Shalalth page.  A closer look at the right-hand photo (available by clicking on this one) shows that Powerhouse No. 2 was nearly completed, putting the date of this flight sometime around 1960, which surprises me given the rough shape the switchyard area is in; it looks more like it's just been freshly clear-cut but by this time it would have been cleared for at least ten years.


Life in "Camp"


This set of pictures is largely from our family albums, but I've tried to avoid making it specific to my family; contributions from other families and individuals are more than welcome and I hope in the long run this may be its own set of pages within this website.  The community life of the Bridge River Project communities was quite special and - I think I have to say - unforgettable.  Although I was only very young, I remember what seemed like an endless stream of parties, whether for poker, baby showers, or children's birthday parties, dances and movies in the community hall, and even beach life.  No doubt there was a lot of hard work going on, too, but children were luckily immune from most of that.  Actual adults from those days no doubt have many more stories and descriptions than I could come up with, so please send them in.
BC Archives # I-20556: Guest House and Tennis Court at Bridge River Townsite, South Shalalth, 1946
BC Archives # I-20556
I came across this picture in the BC Provincial Archives.  The tennis court - "tennis club" as the promotional caption included in the credit for this image - must be an earlier one than the one that I remember and that is there today, which is closer to the large house in the background and aligned the other way.  I think - I'm just not sure so if a local resident happens on this and can correct me, please do.  The community hall which stands on the site where the court pictured is must have been built after 1946, when this picture was taken.  The tennis court (the one I remember) was often flooded in midwinter to make a hockey and skating rink, but this has not been done for some years now due to the valley's warmed-up climate.   To think that at one time people used to skate on Seton Lake!  But no longer....
The large house is commonly known as "The Guest House" and was run by the company (the BC Electric Railway Company at the time; now BC Hydro) as lodging for in-residence and visiting company officials.  The larger Bridge River Hotel is out of sight in this picture behind the Guest House and would have been still standing at this time; the small building behind the trees is a private house, one of the larger ones in Camp as I recall.  The sunlit patch of mountainside immediately behind the Guest House is where the Mission Mountain Road runs up over to Terzaghi Dam; the hillock atop Mission Ridge near the centre of the picture is the first summit of that ridge, just east of the Microwave.
 
BC Archives # I-20555: Mock Castle in Garden, Bridge River Townsite, South Shalalth
BC Archives # I-20555
The miniature castle in the garden at left was apparently built by one of the Japanese internees during World War II.  It - or an enlarged version of it, perhaps, still stands in the campsite today.  The lush profusion of growth in the foreground gives an idea of the diversity of gardening in the village, and of the favourable climate the valley enjoys.  The gardens of the townsite are still fairly well-maintained, although many houses and yards are now abandoned or disappeared.  The diversity of flora introduced by hydro company families and the Japanese internees, plus the locally-indigenous greenery, was propagated to other hydro townsites at Buntzen, Stave Falls and Ruskin as company employees relocated, taking cuttings and bulbs with them.  The result is that Hydro townsites have a distinct botanical selection, with a range of flowers and shrubs quite different from those of adjoining communities.
E. Cleven photo: view Bridge River Townsite from penstock portal, 1946 (South Shalalth)
Photo: E. "Andy" Cleven
This is the original Bridge River Elementary School, located just above Powerhouse No. 1 on a small bench with a commanding view of the Lake and the Townsite.  Its location can be seen in the colour aerial farther above, as a clearing in the angle of the road just above the powerhouse.  The Bridge River Community School occupies this site today, the second school on that site since this one was in use; the one I attended burned down sometime in the '60s ('70s?).  Behind the school I knew, there was a teacherage in behind the school I knew, which in fact might have been this old school building as it looks kind of similar.

 
E. Cleven photo: view Bridge River Townsite from penstock portal, 1946 (South Shalalth)
Photo: Andy Cleven
Andy Cleven Photo: View of Bunkhouses at Bridge River Townsite, South Shalalth
Photo: Andy Cleven

The Japanese Internment in Seton


During the Depression construction of the hydro project was halted and the townsite half-abandoned.  During World War II, however, Bridge River's many family homes and bunkhouses were converted into an internment camp for dispossessed Japanese-Canadians from the coast, as were many other locations in the Bridge River-Lillooet Country and elsewhere in BC's Interior.  There were 3800 within the Bridge River-Lillooet Country alone.   Unlike some other internment sites, however, fences and guards were not "needed" at Bridge River because of the valley's isolation - egress was only via the lake and rail line, and the only road led only to the upper Bridge River goldfields (a dead end). One effect of the internees' sojourn was that the many existing gardens in the townsite were improved and enriched with a wide variety of species, especially of the "rock garden" genre, including the castle garden shown further below; to this day the townsite has a unique plant biome although the "garden village" quality of the place is no longer so perfect and the gardens are not so well-kept as they were, and in places they have grown completely wild. Local lore has it that the internees bred octopi in aquaria (as a delicacy) and at the end of the war released them into Seton Lake where they are said to have survived to this day.  Many of the Japanese worked for the Evans Transportation Company as well as for the commercial orchards and market gardens of the Portage.  Unlike many other much more grim internment camps in other parts of BC, fences and guards were not needed at Bridge River, nor were there any restrictions on daily movement other than that imposed by the harsh facts of the valley's geography.  The only way in or out was via the lake or the rail line, and the only road out of the valley led only to the upper Bridge River goldfields (a dead end). Of course survivors of the experience must have mixed feelings about the experience, but I would welcome any input from survivors or their family or friends to give an account of those years, and about who people were and what their stories of this time were.



 
 
 



Life in the Townsite

This set of pictures is largely from our family albums, but I've tried to avoid making it specific to my family; contributions from other families and individuals are more than welcome and I hope in the long run this may be its own set of pages within this website.  The community life of the Bridge River Project communities was quite special and - I think I have to say - unforgettable.  Although I was only very young, I remember what seemed like an endless stream of parties, whether for poker, baby showers, or children's birthday parties, dances and movies in the community hall, and even beach life.  Actual adults from those days no doubt have many more stories and descriptions than I could come up with, so please send them in.
E. Cleven photo: view Bridge River Townsite from penstock portal, 1946 (South Shalalth)






View of old Bridge River townsite from above



































View of upper Townsite from No. 2 penstock portal


Life in the Townsite


Original Bridge River Elementary School, Bridge River Townsite, Shalalth BC

Bridge River townsite from above

View of Bridge River Townsite from offshore
Bridge River townsite from offshore
View of old Bridge River townsite from above

View of old Bridge River townsite from above
































Bridge River electric co. townsite from offshore (E), Andy Cleven Photo
E. Cleven photo: view Bridge River Townsite from penstock portal, 1946 (South Shalalth)