British Columbia·Photos

Newly released photos show devastation of 1965 Hope landslide

B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation has published a collection of photos from 1965 that show the destruction and aftermath of a landslide that completely cut off Highway 3 and killed four people.

Landslide was one of largest in Canadian history, cutting off Highway 3 and killing 4 people

A provincial staff member poses in front of a boulder for scale at the foot of the slide, January 1965. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

Newly released photos from 1965 show the devastation of one of the largest landslides in Canadian history, which killed four people and buried Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton.

On Jan. 9, 1965 more than 47 million cubic metres of rock, mud and debris rumbled across Highway 3 about 18 kilometres southeast of Hope. The slide dramatically changed the landscape in ways that can still be seen today.

"It's part of our narrative," said Brian McKinney of the Hope Visitor Centre. "There's something sombre about the whole site," he said.

McKinney often recommends travellers visit the site, which has a memorial plaque.

This week, B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation published a blog with images that were discovered nearly three years ago and given to Transportation Services Branch social media editor Kristen Reimer, who also serves as the ministry's de facto archivist.

She went through the 80 black and white photographs, most never seen by the public, and published 34 of the images on Flickr to mark the 55th anniversary of the slide.

"They are stunning and I remember finding them and thinking ... wow! This is something that we've got to share out," she said.

Search and rescue workers shovel through the debris after a massive landslide outside Hope in January 1965. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

The images document the incident as well as the search and rescue efforts and highway reconstruction that followed.

An aerial shot of the Hope landslide, which cut off Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton and killed four people. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

It was early on a Saturday morning when an avalanche initially blocked the highway just outside of Hope. Motorists lined up, waiting for crews to clear the snow. 

Around 7 a.m., the landslide came down in the same location. Half of a mountain peak, called Johnson Peak, collapsed and came crashing into the valley below.

Minister of Highways Phil Gaglardi at the site of the Hope landslide during recovery, January 1965. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

Outram Lake, which had been at the foot of slide area, was completely filled with rock and debris, according to the ministry.

A car was buried along with an oil tanker truck and a loaded hay truck.

First responders, including members of Hope Search and Rescue — which had been founded just two years earlier — rushed to the site and eventually were able to recover the bodies of two of the victims. The bodies of the two other victims were never recovered.

A B.C. RCMP officer uses a metal detector to assist with the search for survivors after a massive landslide buried Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton on January 9, 1965. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)
Workers break apart debris at the slide site as part of efforts to reopen Highway 3. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

Crews worked to open the highway back up and over the years the alignment of Highway 3 was changed and further developed.

"It was no small undertaking. I know that for sure," said Reimer. "Seeing these images of the crews working around the clock to try and get that road open and the seriousness of the loss of life that was involved as well —  it's an important point in B.C. history for sure."

A Google Maps satellite image of the area still shows evidence of the slide, although trees and other vegetation have taken root.

What caused the slide?

Reimer says an exact cause of the slide was never determined. It most likely happened as a result of weather or tectonic activity.

"I think it was a perfect storm situation ... that was sort of unseeable and unknowable," she said.

A rough road was cut through the debris to reconnect Highway 3 between Hope and Princeton in January 1965. (B.C. Ministry of Transportation)

Watch time-lapse footage from 1966 that shows the slide site starting at about the 1:20 mark:

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