The Skeena River and Northwest BC are one of the most beautiful places in the world. We were fortunate enough to share this region with writer Janet Gyenes who gave a very stunning account of her visit to the area. We incorporated a touch of many of our Northern BC Adventure Tours during the few days. Read the online article or the screenshots below.
The Kitselas Canyon Historic site and home of the Kitselas First Nation is 15 minutes east of Terrace on the banks of the Skeena River. The highlights include the longhouses, petroglyphs, totem poles, lookout, dugout canoe, interpretive signs and the flora and fauna. None of these highlights would be complete without the interpretive knowledge and background provided by the curator Webb Bennett.
Webb is a wealth of knowledge and can tell you anything about the history of the area. He shares his knowledge and shows us the sites as we wind along a path through the beautiful hemlock forest. He talks about the totem poles and longhouses and how totems are a way for the Kitselas and other first nations to tell their stories as their history isn’t written down anywhere. The experience at the site is hands on as Webb mentions “It’s a living cultural centre”. The tour of the longhouses greatly benefits from this belief as the participants can hold and touch the various items on display to get a better feel of the work that went into making them.
We visit the Kitselas Canyon Historic site on a few of our tours.
Many of our Adventure Tours through Continuing Studies focus on accessing remote and rarely visited sites and to do this we utilize Jet Boats. Running a jet boat with guests who are relying on their guide to bring them back safely after each days adventure requires someone with a vast amount of experience and skill. For our tours in Northwest BC we utilize the services of Fred Seiler who has thousands of hours of jet boating and experience exploring the rivers of this magnificent region. His past experience in delivering eco tours and commercial jet boat services is invaluable. Fred also teaches a Jet Boat safety course for us and has also taught me a vast amount about the safe driving of jet boats and shared all kinds of information about areas to explore and adventure in Northwest BC. Here are a few photos of Fred in action on our tours.
One of the iconic towns of the Skeena River is the town of Port Essington. Founded by Robert Cunningham in 1871 and a fall camping spot of the Tsimshian known as Spokeshute this site has over a wealth of interesting sites and features that will truly amaze you! A jungly 100 year cemetery with hundreds of moss covered headstones, a grisly boneyard of cow skulls and bones, a one km long boardwalk falling into disrepair, pilings protruding out of the brackish river on their last legs, a boiler form the Cunningham sawmill, old bottles, trinkets, and remnants from over 100 years of habitation. The One day Port Essington Experience will jet boat you back in time to a place that few have visited and explored.
A big part of the history of the Skeena River and Upper Fraser River involved the use of Sternwheelers to transport people, equipment, supplies, furs and food up and down the rivers which were the main transportation routes. Almost all of the sternwheelers used wood to fed the boilers which in turn powered the large paddles at the rear of the ship. Wood was a readily available resource that grew adjacent to the river and could easily be cut and split into 3-4 ft sections and piled into cords by local contractors. The term Cordwood became part of everyday language as it was a necessity for every day travel. The cordwood cutters would get around $3-4 a cord for each one that was used by the boats. They would cut it and stack it next to the river at strategic points so that there was always an available supply along the routes that they traveled. The sternwheelers could burn 1-3 cords and hour depending on the size of the boilers and how hard they ran the boat. This was for upstream navigation only as downstream typically used a fraction of this as they used the current for most of their power. Passengers were typically enlisted to help with the loading of the cordwood at the supply points. some boats could hold up to 10 cords of wood at one time. It was one crew members job to continually feed the boilers with wood the entire time the boat was moving.
Ironically the Sternwheelers faded into obscurity in the 1912 -1920′s as the railway replaced the need for them. The last use of the sternwheelers was the assisting with goods and supplies to build the railway.
On the Skeena River the last sternwheeler the “Inlander ” did its last trip in 1912. Why this is interesting is that there are still piles of old cordwood lying along the banks of the river that were never consumed. In one location that we visit there are 6 piles lying adjacent to the river and they are in different stages of rot and decay but they can still be identified. For some reason I find this fascinating that these piles are over 100 years old and are one of the only remnants of the historic Sternwheeler days. If you want to visit these piles you can always join one of our tours that visits them or send me a note and I would be happy to provide you directions to them.
One of the most photographed items on our visits to Port Essington is the abandoned boat lying in the deep sedge grass. I was fortunate enough to find out some more information on the boat and acquire a photo of the boat when it was seaworthy. The boats name is the Hi-Lo and it was a small crab fishing boat that plied the inner water of the coast in search of crabs. The lady who told me about it said that she remembers fishing on it it with her grandfather and rolling out a sleeping mat on top of the warm engine compartment at night time to go to sleep. The boat looks a little worse every year we go back there but still stands out prominently in the dark green sedge grass. We visit Port Essington on a few of our tours and we are doing a Brand New one day tour to Port Essington May 27, 2017. Don’t miss this opportunity to visit the town that still “Stands Guard over the Mouth of the Skeena”
The Skeena River is rich in first nations history and one of the more interesting stories is that of Chief Comaham. He died on the Skeena River in 1873.
It was hot August day when he and his family were paddling up river from Port Simpson to a village at the mouth of the Lakelse River. As he paddled his restless daughter stood up in the canoe as they hit a whirlpool and over she went in the swift current of the Skeena near Shames creek. The chief quickly jumped over board in search of his young daughter and he was quickly consumed by the fast and dirty water. First Nations from up and down the river mobilized in search of their bodies but none was ever found. Comaham was a head man for Port Simpson so a great funeral and ceremony was conducted. A large marble headstone was commissioned and placed on the edge of the river near where he died. The headstone still stands in place, weathered from over 130 years. The headstone lies on private property and cannot be visited without special permission. We were fortunate enough to have access for our guests to visit it on our “Skeena River Historical Journey”. Much of the information above is summarized from an article by Ruth M. Hallock.
On all of our Adventure tours the chances of seeing some sort of wildlife are almost guaranteed. The places we visit are remote and relatively untouched with few visitors. The bird life is amazing with so many species and a variety depending on where we are. There is always a chance to see a bear or moose and the odds go op greatly when we target the species. Here are just a few photos of some of the wildlife.
We jet boat down the “River of Mists” or Skeena as it is better known on a few of our tours and at one of the spots near the tiny town of Usk we come around a corner and there lies a “Giant Bunny” Towering over the River. It takes many of the guests awhile to see this massive bunny but once seen it is always easy to spot again. The river provides a great vantage point to see the bunny. You can also spot the bunny in a few spots from the highway as well. Thanks @simonsees for the photo
One of the most interesting times to explore the old canneries of the Skeena River is at low tide. This area still has upto 20 ft tides and for a few hours each day the shores come alive with items from the past that provide some insights into the history of these abandoned sites. We usually visit a couple of them at low tide and provide the guests with some time to explore. Old animal skulls, bones, teeth, headstones, bricks, beach glass, muffin pans, pots, ceramics, and much more still remain. Every cannery is unique with the remnants from the past depending on the dismantling, length of operation and year it closed. These seldom visited sites are truly a unique trip and we visit them on our Canneries of the North Coast tour in May 2017.