The Skeena River has some amazing historical sites and features. Here area few of my favorites.
An amazing place with a ton of history. Ringbolt island, petroglyphs, totem poles, long houses are some of the highlights. I have been on many tours of the historic site with Webb Bennet and I learn something new everytime.
The Airstrip was built in the 40′s as a relief landing field by the Military. It was used by the cadets as a base for their operations as well but has now fell into disrepair. it seems so out of place on the edge of the river. Most people drive right by it on the south side of the Skeena River and do not know it exists on the opposite side of the river.
Port Essington / Spokeshute
An amazing place with a long history as it was the hub of the Commercial Salmon Cannery industry on the Skeena River. Everytime I go there and explore I find something new. After reading the “Spokeshute” book by E. A Harris and the “Klondike of the Skeena” by Phylis Bowman the town makes sense when visiting it as you can imagine where all the stories took place.
This unique railway, mining and farming community on the banks of the Skeena River is a hidden gem. My favorite part of the the visit is looking for all the old cars and trucks in the overgrown forest. The train used to have a siding where the locals could unload a vehicle off the train for the few km of road that existed. Once the siding was removed the cars and trucks had no way out to the millions of km’s of road on the outsdie of Dorreen.
Chief Legaik Pictograph
The portrait is believed to be that of the Tsimshian Chief, Legaik. The left side of the painting records a feast given by the chief in which 9 containers were given away.The painting was done by an artist named Lequate in the 1830′s. How did he manage to paint this on this massive rock face?
It is believed he was suspended in a cedar basket from a rope from above the rock face while he painted the rock.
Located at the mouth of the Khyex River was a small community known as “Skeena City”. Many people drive right by without even seeing the remnants from the past. This 1910 community was short lived but it did have a cannery and sawmill. The island of trees on the shores of the river include many remnants of these past activities. Old pilings, tunnels, bricks and metal piping still scatter the area.
Have you ever seen a 100 year pile of cordwood? The fuel for the sternwheelers in the early 1900’s was row upon row of wood stacked on the banks of the Skeena River. The Sternwheelers would stop every few hrs to reload and continue up the Skeena to Hazeleton. Cordwood cutters would receive $3-4 a cord but the cutter who cut these piles probably never got paid as the piles still remain on the banks of the Skeena River. (maybe waiting for a sternwheeler revival!)
Chief Comaham Headstone
The story behind Chief Comaham according to Ruth Hallock was that he was paddling up the Skeena River on a hot August 15th day in 1873. He had left Port Simpson on his way to the mouth of the Lakelse River with his family. His young 4 year old daughter was standing in the canoe when they encountered a swell in the river and over board she went. Comaham did not hesitate and jumped in the murky waters of the Skeena River after his daughter. The churning waters were too much for Comaham as he and his daughter were never seen again. A lengthy search for his body was not successful. A Stonecutter from Port Simpson named George Rudge was commissioned to to a headstone for Chief Comaham. This headstone still stands today in memoriam.
Gitwangak Totem Poles and Church
The 1893 St Paul’s Anglican Church and Bell Tower at Kitwanga (formerly known as Gitwangak) plus the different Clan totem poles that line the river are a highlight and easily accessible.
Haysport which was named after Charles Hays who died in the Titanic sinking. He was also responsible for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway which was completed in 1914. Haysport seemed like it would end up becoming a thriving town as it had the name of one of the most famous and influential entrepeneurs behind it. It was on the same side of the river as the Railway ( this caused the demise of Port Essington across the Skeena River). One thing that did not bode well for the town was that they moved the commercial fishing boundary down river from Haysport which was the start of the demise of Haysport. An interesting fact mentioned int eh recent book I read was that once the commercial fishing season came to and end, workers from all the canneries on the lower Skeena River made their way to Haysport to catch the train back to their home village up the Skeena River. One story mentioned a line of luggage 1 km long and 5-6 hrs to load it and all the passengers on the train at Haysport. It would have been quite a scene!
The village of Cedarvale which was formerly known as Meanskinisht has the remains of the store and post office on the north side of the Skeena River. The building is one of the three remaining buildings that missionary Robert Tomlinson built in the late 1800′s. This building has been a “Jack of all trades building” as it served initially as a home, telegraph office,post office, polling station during elections,store and rurvived the 1936 Skeena flood with water at its wall.The building still stands today on the banks of the Skeena River directly across from Cedarvale and the site of the old reaction ferry.
The village Meanskinisht which means beneath a pine tree is also n=known as Cedarvale was the site of Robert Tomlinson’s mission in 1888. Robert and his wife Alice are buried in the cemetery.
The Cassiar Cannery, which was built on Inverness Passage on the Skeena River in 1903. It canned salmon until 1983 which made it the longest running cannery on the Northcoast. Justine and Mark have done an amazing job at renovating the “Managers houses” as a guest accommodation. The houses are situated right on the banks of the Skeena River. Here is a link to their website. http://www.cassiarcannery.com
George Frizzel Boneyard
George Frizzel was a local butcher and business person in Port Essington. As there was no grazing lands for cattle, they were brought in live on the Union Steamship and kept around until they were butchered and the remains thrown over his dock. Quite an eerie sight after 100 years.
Ksan Historic Site
This replicated Gitxsan historic site is located at the confluence of the Bulkley and Skeena Rivers in the community of Hazelton. The long houses and totem poles are a must see.