Ghost Towns of BC: Bradian, The Million Dollar City


You may have heard of it. Bradian sits in the hills North of Pemberton. Over the past few years, it has been in and out of the news as it entered the real estate market. Recently, the entire town was sold for just over one million dollars.

Bradian is known to be one of the most intact ghost towns of BC—still rooted deeply in gold Rush history. Its 22 houses and original buildings, perfectly spaced along its rural holdings. Still standing in no small part thanks to the Gutenburg family, who owned the town for a decade, after purchasing it in 1997.

Bradian hasn’t been empty for long, the suburb of the town of Bralorne, was only abandoned in 1971. The local mine closed for good, gold prices were down, and the cost of running a company where everything had to be trucked in was no longer profitable. Most abandoned towns in BC have come from similar circumstances—a company folds, and so does the infrastructure around it. The place divides, separates, and its people move back to wherever home was before.

The Bralorne Mine sits in a gold belt, one that’s been used since long before European-settlers headed into the hills around Cadwallader Creek. In the 1870s, Chief Hunter Jack started to open up the the area to chosen prospectors. Chosen, because he ran a ferry across the Bridge River, completely impassible without a boat. There’s evidence that he had a placer mine nearby, further up the creek. A mine so rich he was known to give out small golden nuggets at potlatches.

In 1897, some of the prospectors he lead founded the grounds that would eventually become Bralorne Mine. The then only simple arrastra mines (where you grind the rocks to break them down, and then use mercury to sort the gold), eventually turned into a million-dollar operation. The company’s heyday came during the early 1930s. Gold prices weren’t as affected by the Great Depression, and Bralorne Mine employed hundreds of people during one of the 20th century’s hardest times. It was an oasis in the mountains, as everyone else struggled to get by. In the years to follow, the area produced over 340-million dollars worth of gold.

When visiting, that number feels distant. Bradian is silent, only birds, the creek, and occasional dirt bike mufflers.

The Gutenburg family’s decade of effort is obvious in Bradian. More than half of the homes have new tin roofs, protecting them from the rain, and making sure they aren’t crushed in the winter’s heavy snowfall. The nearby town of Bralorne is by no means empty: a great spot for people looking to get out of the city. Really out of the city. The population fluxes in summer—even though every second building seemed to be for sale.

The dirt road to get there is very used, and is a good place to start if you want to try some 4x4ing. Closer to Bralorne, it gets a little crazier. Muddy corners, huge rocks, and other motorists—all while climbing to 3700 feet in altitude. But each time I was feeling like any sort of a renegade, someone with a beat-up Corolla would meet me at the next tight turn.

You can definitely make the trip (during the summer) in any vehicle, but you might find yourself with a few rock chips, and a slightly scraped undercarriage. The whole trip from Vancouver should only take you around four hours each way, two hours to Pemberton, two off-roading.

Bradian is one of the best sites you can day-trip to, but I encourage you to make a weekend of it. Take the scenic road, slowly. Leave the place as good as you found it. All while celebrating one of the few ghost towns that still stands, and the people who worked so hard to keep it that way.

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