Ainsworth, British Columbia
aka: Ainsworth Hot Springs
|Regional District||Central Kootenay|
|Founded||May 31, 1883|
|• Land||0.57 km2 (0.22 sq mi)|
|• Density||35.7/km2 (92/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC-8 (PST)|
Founded on May 31, 1883, it is the oldest surviving community on Kootenay Lake.
The founder of Ainsworth was George Ainsworth, a steamboat captain from Portland, Oregon, who, with his father John, had already made a fortune operating sternwheelers on the Columbia River. On May 31, 1883, George Ainsworth received a Crown Grant of 166 acres (67 ha) at what was originally Hot Springs Camp. He named the land Ainsworth in honour of his family. Upon hearing of the discoveries of silver-lead ore in the Kootenays, the brothers had travelled to British Columbia from Idaho via Bonners Ferry.:116 Ainsworth grew into a town in 1884 when, "A.D. Wheeler landed there" with the first general store "started by G.B. Wright in the fall of 1888."
From 1884, the mountains above Ainsworth were alive with mining activity and prospectors had staked nearly every inch of ground from the townsite to the glacial summits. By 1889, several mines including Number One, Skyline, Little Donald and Krao were operating.:116 Among the prospectors was roadbuilder Gustavus Blin Wright, who had built part of the Old Cariboo Road. However, like many others, Wright would have no luck. Then in 1891, Eli Carpenter and John Seaton left Ainsworth for their mining claims, but returned after several futile weeks of searching. They returned to town by a route that took them over Payne Mountain, where they discovered ore samples worth CN$170 to $240 a ton. Carpenter's and Seaton's discoveries would be the catalyst for the Slocan Silver Rush and the region would become known as the "Silvery Slocan".
The town of Ainsworth prospered during this period and Gold Commissioner, Henry Anderson petitioned the government for a wagon road from the town to the mines and for a wharf. Both were built in 1889 and in 1891, the town was visited by the new sternwheeler Nelson, the first sternwheeler built to provide service for the communities on Kootenay Lake.
The Nelson didn't operate during the winter months and supplies had to be brought in by packhorse, driving up food prices and making such luxuries as liquor hard to come by. To solve the problems caused by this isolation, the community decided to build its own sternwheeler, one that could run all year round, connecting with Bonners Ferry. That sternwheeler was the City of Ainsworth, launched on May 4, 1892. The ill-fated boat had an unlucky launch, sliding down the ways stern first and flipping over onto her starboard side. She was soon righted by the steamer Galena and went on her maiden voyage without further incident.:117
Meanwhile, the town of Ainsworth continued to boom and the saloons and brothels prospered. One of the best known hotels in town was the Olson Hotel, built by Charles Olson, who had paddled up to the area on a raft in 1883. He built the hotel when he was 21 and kept it until his death in 1926. The Olson Hotel's most unusual feature was its two-story outhouse. The upper floor could be reached from the rooms in the second story of the hotel, while the ground floor was for patrons entering from the hotel's grounds. The toilets were bowls with lids on top, which the proprietor's wife kept from freezing in the winter by heating them with coal oil lamps.:117
Fire was a constant hazard in these pioneer communities and on April 26, 1896, much of Ainsworth was destroyed. The fire brigade saved the Green Brothers store and several houses, but the fire burned down thirteen hotels including Olson's. Rebuilding started immediately and most of the hotels were rebuilt. The Deering even boasted a swimming pool in its basement. Still, Ainsworth suffered in its isolation, having no roads until 1914 and not having electrical service until 1928. For many years, there was no hospital and the town's medical needs were provided by the local veterinarian, Dr. Henry.:118
Ainsworth continued on in the early years of the century. The Highland Boy and the No. 1 mine provided employment. Adjoining mines at Kaslo, Coffee Creek and the Molly Gibson made Ainsworth a supply point. Mining continued at Ainsworth nearly continuously until 1953. Ainsworth never achieved the fame of the nearby Slocan district, particularly, Sandon.[clarification needed]
The Olson Hotel was torn down in 1960, but the family name is honoured by Mount Olson in the Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park. Another pioneer hotel, McKinnon House, survived and is now Silver Ledge.
Ainsworth is now a popular tourist destination and home to the Ainsworth Hot Springs which originate in the Cody Caves area and are considered to be the best commercial hot springs in British Columbia. The temperatures vary from 40–42 °C (104–108 °F) in the cave to 35–38 °C (95–100 °F) in the pool.
- Cody Caves Provincial Park on the eastern slopes of the Selkirk Mountains are a system of ancient limestone caves with an underground stream.
- Kokanee Glacier Provincial Park offers fishing, canoeing and kayaking on more than 30 glacier lakes and 32,035 hectares (79,160 acres) of wilderness with hiking and ski trails.
- 12 miles to the north is the village of Kaslo, home to two National historic sites including the SS Moyie, the world's oldest intact sternwheeler.
- Northwest of Ainsworth is the historic ghost town of Sandon, the "Capital of the Silvery Slocan", once known as the "Monte Carlo of Canada".
- 11 miles south is Balfour, where visitors can enjoy the longest free ferry ride in the world, at the Kootenay Lake Ferry Crossing.
Ainsworth has been featured on the historical television series Gold Trails and Ghost Towns, Season 2, episode 10.
- Go BC. "Ainsworth Hot Springs". Retrieved 2007-07-18.
- Downs, Art (1979). Pioneer Days in British Columbia Volume 4. Heritage House and main author Edna Hanic. pp. "various". ISBN 0-9690546-8-8.
- British Columbia.com. "Ainsworth Hot Springs". Archived from the original on 29 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-18.
- "The Oldest Town on the Lake". Hot Springs News. September 12, 1891.
- "Olson, Mount". BC Geographical Names.