Coquihalla Canyon Park, Othello Tunnels partial reopening in July

A popular B.C. tourist destination badly damaged by floods and heavy rain over two years ago will partially reopen in mid-July.

Coquihalla Canyon Park, including the first two of the five Othello Tunnels, is now repaired after the first phase of restoration work.

The November 2021 atmospheric river heavily damaged the century-old tunnels and undermined bridge foundations and slope stability in the steep canyon. Local access roads and trails were also washed out.

"There was a massive amount of fallen trees and debris," said geotechnical engineer Aaron Nikoli. "The flood debris went through the tunnels and eroded all of the trail grade and did some damage along the tunnel walls as well."

Nikoli said the park and tunnels will be better able to withstand severe weather once the work is complete.

According to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, crews have removed unstable soil and vegetation and placed steel bars to stabilize the rock face. Safety mesh has been added in the first tunnel and along the slopes to catch falling material, and sprayed concrete has been applied to some of the significantly worn rock.

The exact date of reopening will be posted online by B.C. Parks in the coming weeks. The remainder of the park is scheduled to reopen in 2025.

The estimated cost of the restoration is $4.5 million.

The tunnels in 1914, left, under construction and upon completion in 1916, right.
The tunnels in 1914, left, under construction and upon completion in 1916, right. (Submitted by Helen Kennedy/Hope Visitor Centre )

Construction of the tunnels was completed in 1916 by Canadian Pacific as part of the Kettle Valley Railway linking the Kootenay region of B.C. with the South Coast.

Built into the canyon walls feet above the Coquihalla River, the tunnels have appeared in a number of movies, most famously Rambo: First Blood, in which star Sylvester Stallone hangs from a cliff while a helicopter shoots at him.