The History Behind The Othello Tunnels

Othello Tunnels

Perhaps you’ve recognized them from Rambo: First Blood, Cabin In The Woods, or just seen them on a “Vancouver Must-Do” list.

Either way, these magnificent tunnels will be 102 years old this year. Rich in history and immersed with unanswered questions, Othello Tunnels are almost as old as our country itself.

Made up of a series of five tunnels and multiple bridges in between, the cliffs are straight granite, at a massive 300 feet tall. Located north of Hope, the tunnels have concrete and wood supports from the inside. Once you’re in the tunnels, you can actually hear the rapids flowing through the gorge.

Photo: BC Archives

The tunnels were built by the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1914, who also helped in the construction of the cross-Canada railway that was meant to link the Kootenays with the South Coast of BC. In 1914, they contained one of the most expensive railway miles in the world, at $300,000.

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The Othello Tunnels were named after a close by railway station on the Kettle Valley Railway station, since all the tunnels were named after character in Shakespeare plays. The engineer, Andrew McCulloch was a big Shakespeare fan, hence the names.

Although the tunnels have been called an “engineering marvel” by President Kennedy himself, there are some parts of the construction of the tunnels that don’t get discussed as often. A lot of the construction that went on was handled by Chinese workers, who worked almost exclusively by hand and often did not survive the explosives used to blow up portions of the mountains.

In 1986, the area became a provincial recreation area.

Othello Tunnels

  • Hope, BC V0X 1L0
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