My partner is quite the explorer and has quite the eye sight. High above he scans the distance for the roads less taken. He searches for new streets and less publicized paths in which he plans to drive on. Using his great sense of direction and minimal assistance from the GPS he gets us there.
It is from such a tangent that we discovered this semi-operational park. We have been coming to the Okanagan and stopping in Kelowna since 2011. We have driven on many roads and read up on many sights, yet this was the first we have ever seen or heard of this place; and it was only by chance.
“Kelowna Mountain” was a big resort dream that never saw completion. Red tape and shady dealings saw to this. (My partner also likes to do research, so told me this much). I guess that is why we have never heard of the place and why there was no tourist advertisements on it. Such a shame as this was the highlight of our trip, and a place I would deem a “must not miss”.
On route, the horrible gravel road and the fallen “Kelowna Mountain” sign really has you questioning where it is you are actually going, and if you are even allowed to be here. But seeing the suspension bridges lacing between hills in the background has you googling for more information. You want to go. What is this place? Can I go there? How much does it cost? Luckily their website is more functional than they are in person.
The entrance is technically through the building fronted by a water fountain, though for the sneaky adventurer you can walk around it to enter the “park” grounds. It was $20 for entry and the ability to cross the bridges, their website posted $25. But with an hour before closing at 5pm, they don’t allow anyone on the bridges after 4pm. Sensing our disappointment the young clerk at the front desk waved us past and suggested that we check things out back.
So we began walking around, taking photos and exploring the sights. Behind the building that resembled a cathedral were white wicker chairs and matching white tables row on row. It looked like there would be a wedding here tonight. An hour later, when guests started trickling in, we knew that was exactly the case. Can you imagine your wedding here? No one will ever forget it for the view alone. Though the drive to Kelowna from the lower mainland is a painstakingly long one, especially in the wrong mode of transportation.
We continue to move forward until we met up with the first bridge. Although their was several covered areas with chairs that seemed to function as check-in stations, there were no employees working past the front desk. No one to monitor the grounds, no one to check on patrons, and no one to usher access. So we crossed. And soon we found ourselves repeating: bridge after bridge we passed, until we were on the longest suspension bridge in North American. We walked back and forth on them all, only to later learn each has technically never been inspected, and each is not legally sound. But worry not, I am alive to write this, so have survived.
They had such great plans for the place, as this towering stone cross sign shows. Vineyards, gift shop, snack shack, ski hill, and amphitheatre. Now it looks like a place and space lost in time, with no one to love it. It doesn’t even look like there was ever a first grape harvest. A little sad. You can’t help but appreciate the irony it casts over what could have be a multimillion dollar resort, in the perfect location of all places.
It has all the staples of a tourist trap. Like photo opportunities that aren’t necessary with a natural back drop like this. Yet we were still suckered into taking photos with the “Kelowna Mountain” sign and others of us sprawled out on the couch. Why was there a dimpled velvet couch in the middle of the path anyways? It was obviously set up for photo shoots. They have definitely transformed the place and steered it in the direction of the perfect wedding locale.
The “Sun Bridge” was the second bridge. It was built in 2009 and spans 500 feet. It is suspended 100 feet over what should have been there ice wine vineyard. The bridges feel steady, but the wind does get your adrenaline going.
The third bridge is the one that you come to see. The “Water Bridge” is named in relation to the nearby waters of their 100-foot waterfall. There was no waterfall, another promise left unfulfilled. Though as the longest bridge in North America, it is still impressive. And the view is insane. Something about being this high and taking in this much, all while swaying is unreal.
Their sundial is another tourist attraction. It is the largest sundial in British Columbia. I wasn’t aware that they were still making sundials and that there many in our province. A sundial uses the position of the sun in relation to the earth to derive time. It existed before mechanical devices and batteries.
Utilizing Mother Nature, ancient Egyptians were able to invent the world’s first shadow operated clock. The shadow cast from the angled rod on to the dictated surface marked the hours of the day. The rod is called a “gnomon”. As the sun moves across the sky, the shadow’s edge aligns with different columns from 7am to 7pm. From afar the feature has a Romanesque look to it. What a wonderful place to sit and let time pass.
Our wonderful time here was cut short with the impending 5pm closing. And the thought that we would be labeled as wedding crashers or forced to mingle on our way to our car. We ended up dodging the front by sneaking around the building.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – Yes.
I never plan on marrying, but if I this would be the venue to consider. Out of the way, not well advertised, a one of a kind destination not too far from home. We will be going back next year and every year, the view is just that amazing. No amount of photos or minutes of videography can capture a fraction of its majesty. It’s a see it to believe it feeling, with or without all the intended bells and whistles. I mean the owner paid 8 million for the land when it was a deal and put in more money to be able to share it with everyone now. Please go see this for yourself. Be warned, there are no food carts, no seating areas, and now public washrooms. It is a fine blend of raw nature and modern comfort.
KELOWNA MOUNTAIN BRIDGES
5755 Gillard Forestry Road, Upper Mission, Kelowna BC