A look at the early days of Golden.

The watery history of Golden

Colleen Palumbo look back at some of the wetter times in the history of Golden.

Well, here we are at the beginning of the spring thaw and if you have been following the information reported in the Golden Star regarding the Bridge to Bridge project you will, if you are an old timer be aware of the present dike and how it came into being.

If you are newish to the community, you may not be aware of some of the history of the dike.

Back in the early days of Golden, the heart of the town, so to speak was across the railroad track from the present 7-11.

That was the historic downtown and where the original train station stood, the one that was in town before the one that was moved to the museum. I hope that makes sense.

The Kicking Horse River was a terrible threat back then and lets face it the whole of Golden sits on the Kicking Horse flood plain.

I wish I could include a map of where the river used to go but perhaps you can imagine it.

The Kicking Horse River came out of the canyon and spread across this entire plain in the spring time.

Once the tracks went in the river was controlled from cutting through the heart of town going to the west but spread madly to the south.

There was one channel that ran down by where the town hall (hence the name River Avenue) is and made its way to the Columbia River near the old mill site.

In Golden’s first days the south side of town didn’t have many buildings on it because there was no bridge across the river but eventually the mill went in and then residences and other businesses.

On the north side the river spilled out and caused a great deal of inconvenience.

Businessmen complained and managed to get a dike built up that would keep the river in the main channel.

The original part of the dike was built by going out into the bush, pulling trees out of the ground, dragging them into Golden, laying them like cordwood and filling in the spaces with boulders and dirt.

Then we started chopping off the Kicking Horse’s arms – the little channels that ran all over the plain and soon we had too much water for the one channel that we were trying to keep it in.

The picture attached to this article shows the town before the businesses were built along the river.

Our answer to too much water was to build the dike higher and dredge the river. In the years that the river was being dredged annually we had very little worry of flooding.

Perhaps the worst flood of the town happened in 1919 when an ice jam built up in the Kicking Horse River about 3 miles out of town. When the water let loose the whole of town was flooded.

We did have some flooding in 1944 – in the lower south end of Golden but that was from the Columbia and in 1948 as well.

That was a big flood year for the Columbia. In 1959 there was water in the basements of businesses along the dike.

All of the oldtimers will remember the snowfall of 1971-72 when we recorded the highest snowfall on record for the town of Golden.

This led to the flooding of 1972.

Most of the flooding was from the Columbia and a goodly section of the south side of town up to 8th Ave was underwater. Sandbags were added to the dikes on the Kicking Horse and by some miracle we managed to get through without serious loss.

In 1974 when it looked again like the Kicking Horse was going to be a problem the town of Golden asked the province for help and when the province hesitated town crews and locals took to fixing it themselves.

A call was put out to find material to heighten the dike and Vandenbilt Auto Body started hauling cars to the site where they were crushed by a D-8 and a D-9 cat and packed with sand and gravel into the dike.

The whole process took three days to build 800 feet of new dike. Cost for that project amounted to around $4,600.00 including $1,200 for the cost of the bulldozers; $1,600 for gravel moving, $400.00 for cable and $1,200 for moving the car bodies to the site.

Since that time the dike has again been reinforced by having the big rocks brought in and the spaces filled with dirt and the power/telephone lines moved from the front of the businesses to the back.