History of the Paradise Mine

Transport yourself back in time and immerse yourself in the captivating history of the Paradise Mine. Alternatively, experience this historically rich and unique location on a Snowmobile, ATV or Mountain Bike Tour. Your adventure awaits!



Life in the late 1800s

The historical saga unfolds in the stunning yet formidable Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, known for their frigid, snowy winters and usually hot but short summers. These mountains lie beside the grand Columbia River and neighbour the world-famous Canadian Rockies. Within their domain lie glaciated peaks, striking alpine lakes, lush wetlands, and vibrant rivers. The landscape not only shelters a variety of flora and fauna but also conceals coveted mineral resources beneath. In the late 1880s, a brave band of prospectors turned their gaze to these mountains, seeking their fortunes. The rest, as they say, is history.

The story of the Paradise Mine is woven into the fabric of British Columbia’s history – the 6th province to join the Canadian Confederation. The era was filled with resilient pioneers, wagon roads through mountain terrain, steam vessels navigating the untamed Columbia River, and gold rushes that stirred the human spirit. Fortunes were made and lost, and the foundation of eastern British Columbia and its Columbia Valley were formed.

Today, Toby Creek Snowmobile, ATV, and Mountain Bike Adventures own the Paradise Basin land claims and Paradise Mine property. The peaceful and highly scenic alpine area was once the site of a bustling mining operation that employed hundreds of the early residents in the local area. Now, it is the home base for incredible recreational mountain adventures.


Kootenay Rockies Fur Trade & Mines

In the early 19th Century, the East Kootenay region, then part of the fur-trading Columbia District in British North America, was largely uncharted. The North West Company first explored it between 1793 and 1811, establishing it as a fur district around 1810. Post-1821, it was absorbed into the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821. Operations west of the Rocky Mountains were reorganized, and the fur districts of New Caledonia to the north and Columbia to the south were merged in 1827 under the name Columbia Department.

North West Company coat of arms, ca. 1800-1820
Unknown Artist/Library and Archives Canada/C-008711

The 1846 Oregon Treaty with the USA ended the Hudson’s Bay Company’s reign over the Columbia Department. The Fraser Canyon Gold Rush of 1858 brought Americans into New Caledonia and Columbia. The subsequent Fraser Canyon Gold Rush of 1858 saw an influx of Americans, challenging British territorial claims and leading to the formal creation of the Colony of British Columbia in 1871, which later joined Canada as its sixth province, with New Westminster as its capital.

Following this, gold rushes across the province ensued, with the 1862 Cariboo Gold Rush particularly notable. The discovery of gold on the Wild Horse River near Cranbrook in 1863 heralded a new era of prosperity, with the river eventually yielding around $7,000,000 in gold. The river, first prospected by an American, is considered one of the greatest gold creeks in the entire province of British Columbia. One notable miner, Mike Reynolds, famously unearthed a 36-ounce gold nugget during this period.


Gold Rush Miners

The gold rush of 1864 was directly responsible for the creation of Galbraith’s Ferry, later known as Fort Steele. Galbraith’s Ferry was a gold rush boom town founded in 1864 by John Galbraith, who operated a ferry to take gold prospectors across the Kootenay River for a hefty price.

They completed the Canadian Pacific Railway to Golden in 1885, encouraging settlers and prospectors to venture into the region. As more people arrived, disputes over land ownership between the local Ktunaxa First Nation population and the newcomers would inevitably arise. The most serious dispute was between Chief Isadore of the Ktunaxa and Colonel James Baker over a piece of land called Joseph’s Prairie, present-day Cranbrook. Tension peaked in 1887 when the local Constable Barnes of the British Columbia Provincial Police arrested two young members of Chief Isadore’s band for the murder of two miners. The murders had taken place almost three years before the arrest. Chief Isadore and 30 armed men broke open the Government Building jail in Galbraith’s Ferry and released the Ktunaxa prisoners.

Superintendent Samuel B. Steele and 75 members of the North West Mounted Police were sent to resolve these problems. They established the first post west of the Rockies, the Kootenay Post, at Galbraith’s Ferry. After dismissing the criminal charges against the two Ktunaxa men and mediating the land problems, the NWMP departed in 1888. The area’s residents petitioned the Dominion Government to change the settlement’s name from Galbraith’s Ferry to Fort Steele in honour of the Superintendent of the ‘D’ Division.

After the departure of the North West Mounted Police, things were pretty quiet at Fort Steele until significant deposits of silver, lead, and coal were discovered nearby. Prospectors once more flooded the valley, and the hills were dotted with campfires each evening.


History of The Paradise Mine

Prospectors from the Wild Horse River gold rush had been working north from Fort Steele in the 1880s and began to report rich discoveries in the Purcell Mountains west of Lake Windermere. Tom “Blanket” Jones was one of the earliest prospectors in the Purcell Mountains. He was a man of powerful physique, was well informed about minerals, and there was little of the East Kootenay country with which he was not more or less acquainted. He never packed a tent. His only load on his prospecting trips was a blanket and some food, so he earned the nickname “Blanket Jones”.

Jones had been part of the Wild Horse River gold rush but had not done as well as others. He had eventually moved on and gone prospecting to the north of Lake Windermere along a tributary of the Columbia River known as Toby Creek. Jones followed Toby Creek and finally worked up into the headwaters area of Spring Creek, a tributary of Toby Creek on the north side of the valley and upstream of the Toby Creek canyon.

Among the other prospectors in the same area in 1889 were two partners – John Watson from Manitoba and John Jeffery from Ontario. These two men also came up to the Spring Creek headwaters prospecting and turned up some coarse blackish-looking sand that they thought looked promising. They brought samples of the sand to show Tom Jones, whom they had prospected with previously. Jones went up to their find to help them stake their claim and, together with the two men, staked out another claim for himself as Watson and Jeffery.

The Paradise Basin area had a total of nine claims registered by 1899. Three predominate claims, “Parradice”, “Royal Stag,” and “Comstock” formed the nucleus of what became known as the Paradise Mine. Although the prospectors were highly educated in prospecting, they were not as savvy in the English language and incorrectly spelled paradise when filing the one mineral claim with the BC government. The unique spelling of paradise led to romantic stories of the mine being called Pair-o-Dice, and the legend of it being won in a game. However, when the mine was officially formed and bought in 1901, the name Paradise was given due to its setting “so near to the sky”. Additionally, they thought it would be highly prosperous.

Taxes on mines and minerals paid to the BC government.

Photo from the Windermere Valley Museum and Archives: One of the first Paradise Mine Tax on Mines and Minerals submitted in 1901

For a chronological list of mines in the Windermere Valley, Alex Weller compiled a paper for the Windermere Valley Museum and Archives (WVMA). You can view his work either at the museum or by following the below link. The WVMA is managed by a dedicated group of hard-working volunteers belonging to the long-standing Windermere District Historical Society (WDHS). If you are in Invermere, please visit the museum or give an online donation.

To continue reading our in-depth story about the historic Paradise Mine and its key characters, please use the links below.

Note: The information presented in these pages is believed to be a reasonably accurate representation of the history of the Paradise Mine. It has been collated from various sources, including local documents, government records, and Internet sources. If you are aware of any additional information or notice any inaccuracies, please contact us.