Information about the area:
Coupland’s Cabin is located on Otter Lake, about 5 km north of Tulameen and 32 km northwest of Princeton in the Cascade Mountains. A roomy 3600 square feet on three floors, this is probably not a cabin, but rather a private lakeside resort overlooking the lake and surrounding mountains. There is access to two boat launch facilities – one in Tulameen at the public beach area, and one in the government campsite 400 meters north of our cabin. We have excellent drinking water supplied by our own water company, maintained to current standards and tested weekly.
Temperatures range from +35C in the summer, to -35C in the winter. More common is a dry summer day in the high 20’s to low 30’s. Winters bring moderate snowfalls and average temperatures around -10C. In the summer, the lake supports waterskiing, wakeboarding, wake-surfing, windsurfing, canoeing, kayaking, boating, fishing, swimming and a variety of waterfowl. As well, the Kettle Valley Rail Bed, now part of the Trans Canada Trail, travels along the east side of the lake, providing access by bicycle to Brookmere in the north and Princeton in the south, and beyond. In the winter, the lake usually freezes over, and the ample snow provides access for snowmobiles, cross-country skiing, ice fishing, snowshoeing, and the usual ‘fun-in-the-snow’ activities. (Please use extreme caution on a frozen lake in the winter.)
Otter Lake is fed by Otter Creek, which lazes its way through the Otter Valley ranches. Despite its elevation at 2200 feet, the lake is a warm swimming lake when heated by the hot summer days and the steep mountains on either side. The town of Tulameen, a short five minute drive from the cabin, boasts a general store with post office, restaurant, liquor outlet, fishing tackle and licenses, hunting licenses, gas pumps, and the list goes on. In the winter, Tulameen’s outdoor covered ice rink is available for public use and local hockey games. The area is serviced by a volunteer fire department, and our Lockie Road subdivision has five fire hydrants. The City of Princeton is a thirty minute drive, and offers all the usual amenities.
History of the area:
Tulameen, or ‘red earth’, was named by the First Nations People for the red ochre bluffs between Tulameen and Princeton. They used the red ochre, a metamorphosed coal, as a source of pigment for their paint. Called Campement des Femmes by the Northwest Company fur traders, Tulameen was where the women of the band camped while the men hunted in the surrounding mountains. Beginning in 1813, Tulameen was a rest stop used by fur traders on their way from Hope to Kamloops and the BC interior. Teams of fifty fur traders and four hundred horses would pass through from Hope on a route of only forty miles.
When gold was discovered along the Tulameen River and its tributaries, a huge influx of panners arrived. (Records state that the largest gold nugget in BC was found in Lockie Creek – which still runs through our subdivision today!) The gold rush quickly died, and all that remains are the shanties of Blakeburn and Granite City. The gold panners often complained about the whitish metal which was heavier in their pans than gold. Most of the panners tossed it out, but one story has it that a Swede named Johannsen tossed it into a bucket which he later buried next to his log cabin. This metal is now known as platinum, and much of the Granite City townsite has been dug up in search of Johannsen’s ‘million dollar bucket’.
The gold rush gave way to a more stable coal mining industry. When the VV&E Railway, later known as the Kettle Valley Railway (KVR) was built in 1916, it was certain that prosperity was here to stay. The Coalmont newspaper called the town the ‘City of Destiny’, and predicted a population of 10,000 within a few years. Sadly, any dreams of greatness were overwhelmed by ‘Black Wednesday’, a mining explosion that killed forty-five miners in 1930 and foresaw the mine’s closing a few years later. Actually, the railroad was better known for supplying most of the ice for the Pacific Northwest, which was hauled from Otter Lake. The KVR once hauled over 3000 boxcars of ice from the lake in fifteen days.
The advent of the railroad also brought a man by the name of George W. Edwards, who lived on a ranch in the Tulameen Valley. He made frequent trips that few people bothered to ask him about. His neighbours later learned his real name when he was captured and put on trial after robbing the CPR outside Kamloops – this was the notorious train robber, Billy Miner!
The poor economics of the KVR relegated Tulameen to a blip on the map. Tulameen's Dominion Hotel and train station have long since been demolished, and the KVR tracks have been pulled up. Only a few miners’ cabins remain. Today, Tulameen is a quiet town of about two hundred permanent residents and probably as many seasonal residents.