Exploring the old Thurston Correctional Facility Grounds – Chilliwack River Valley Series

Located 16km down Chilliwack Lake Road is the site of what used to be Thurston Correctional Facility.

This was a Minimum Security Facility used for prisoners serving time for petty crimes. I remember camping nearby as a kid and the bus would pull up and the prisoners would get out and start picking up garbage around the site. It was win-win, they got to spend time outdoors in this beautiful setting and the site was maintained.

A corrections officer that worked at the facility actually wrote a book called “Hoods in the Woods” sadly it is no longer in print and I have not been able to find a copy! I think it would make a great read and is probably full of interesting stories. Here is a link to the book By G.J.C. Hall.

The buildings were demolished in 2011 after the site was closed permanently in 2002, but if you search online you can find some photos of the old buildings before they were torn down.

There are signs posted stating that the area is not maintained and to pack out what you pack in. This area is also known for vehicle break ins so do not leave valuables in your vehicle.

Backing onto the Chilliwack River it is a beautiful setting now lush with trees, grass and flowers growing between concrete foundations and the remnants of buildings.

After all these years, much of the concrete is covered with moss and overgrown shrubbery but two sets of steps and a concrete path still remain, as well as what appeared to be some random drain pipes in the ground. It is not a place I would want to explore in the dark with random surprises in the ground, but still a beautiful spot to walk and explore.

The two sets of steps, the paved road and drain pipe in the ground. A large rock fire pit that is obviously still enjoyed.

A short ways away on a higher mound of ground is what I presume to be some type of well? I am really not sure.

We lifted the lid and I was going to reach in to pull the garbage out, but there was a mouse. I didn’t want to disturb it and decided against sticking my hand in there so we closed it back up… maybe it’s time to invest in a garbage picker handle.

If you walk to the right the path continues through some trees and into another forested area along the river. This is also a popular fishing spot, although the fishermen I talked to had not caught anything.

While researching the history of this place, I found a few stories of men who would get out and then do a small crime and be back within a few weeks. When asked why they did it, they said rent was too expensive and they hated living in the city after being immersed in nature 24/7.

I am grateful it is open to the public now, as it used to be fenced off with no trespassing signs. Now there is just signs saying it is user maintained and to pack out your garbage, which as you can see in some of the photos, not everyone is abiding by. This scenery is beautiful and I can understand why the parking area is always full in the summer.

Chilliwack Lake Road

Into the Forest I Go, To Lose My Mind and Find My Soul

John Muir

As always, thank you for reading! If you would rather watch the video version, you can watch it on YouTube Here:

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If you would like to see more posts like this, exploring and learning about the history of British Columbia, let me know by leaving a Comment below!

Published by Road Trip Mama

I am a 34 year old Mom of two, married to my wonderful husband living in Beautiful British Columbia. My kids are 9 and 12 and pretty much complete opposites! My daughter loves to Road Trip like her Mama and my son is more ‘are we there yet?’ From 8 hour road trips to see family, ferries to the island or just a good old drive up a dirt road, I’ll have tips to keep the kids entertained, food to pack and road reports! We are so fortunate to live in this beautiful place surrounded by mountains and rivers and endless trails to explore! Follow me and see how I maintain my sanity on these trips!

9 thoughts on “Exploring the old Thurston Correctional Facility Grounds – Chilliwack River Valley Series

      1. Thanks so much, Tina! Love the YouTube version of your trip! It is like going in a group with you. Thanks again and take care! 🙂

  1. I was in both Ford mountain and Thurston,I also was In Center creek as a juvenile 1972 if I remember right,. But what I’m most curious about is mini max , I was there to as a child just let it b said that I was a prisoner in the correctional system in BC as a child and as an adult LIVING THRU THE SYSTEM I’m 61years old If you would like any information, I sure I can help

  2. have you ever found a copy of that book? I’d very much like to borrow or buy one, as I’m doing some research on the history of youth detention camps in western Canada

      1. Unfortunately, it looks like it was a self-published, print-on-demand book, using some kind of Amazon service that was closed down around 2018. I wonder who GJC Hall is/was?

      2. He was a corrections officer at the facility. When I was searching for a copy of the book I found a comment from his daughter, but I can’t remember where… it’s unfortunate as I was hoping to read the book! Ironically when I posted this blog post a few friends from school stated their Dads both worked there too. Such a small world!

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