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Saturday, May 10, 2008

CAPILANO CANYON SUSPENSION BRIDGE: How It All Began

THE CAPILANO CANYON:
HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Early settlers began buying land in the Capilano Canyon in 1888. There were no roads into the area except rough wagon trails from North Vancouver up the Capilano River to the Vancouver Water Works Dam which was under construction in the second canyon.


The Flume Company was purchased by Edward Mahon in 1908 and was then leased to the Japanese in an unprecedented business transaction. At that time government rules prohibited Japanese and Chinese people from attaining success in the lumber industry. Mahon was respected by the Japanese for his fairness. In return they built him a little Oriental-style house which eventually became part of a community centre. They also cleared the land, and planted azaleas and rhododendrons imported from Japan, some of which are still growing on the boulevards of North Vancouver.

George Grant Mackay, an immigrant from Scotland, bought 320 acres of timbered land on the east side of the Capilano River. At that time there were no houses or farms in the area. Mackay built a cabin near the precipice of the canyon. Mackay became known as “The Laird of the Canyon.” He believed this forested wilderness should be enjoyed so he often invited his city friends to visit. The only transportation across the Burrard Inlet at that time was on the steamer boat “Senator”. This vessel could carry twenty passengers and occasionally horses and buggies. Because Mackay’s cottage was difficult to reach, most guests had to hike the strenuous six miles up into the canyon.

Eventually Mackay and his partners, A.P. Horne and R. MacKay Fripp of the Capilano Park Company, developed 4626 acres north of the first canyon for recreational purposes. They purchased the land at $1.00 an acre, timber value not considered, because they felt the forest should be enjoyed by everyone. Te first hotel was built by Mackay’s son in 1892. But Mackay’s plans to develop the park were curbed by the 1890’s Depression.

The Capilano Lumber Company established a mill at Sister’s Creek in 1890. Single bolt flumes were built to run through the first and second canyons linking with one farther along the river near the Mission Indian Reserve. The longest flume was completed in 1906. It ran from Sister’s Creek, nine miles down river, past the dame and into the second canyon. The flume was nearly 200 feet above the water clinging to the rock face amidst breathtaking scenery where white water tumbled over the rocks forming roaring rapids and salmon pools. Shingle bolts cut by Japanese workers were floated down to the mills and often daring boys would ride these bolts down the flume. Capilano Joe’s people and Japanese pioneers built this flume. Many of them were killed while the work was in progress and were buried high above the river on the canyon plateau.
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