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.
One of the highlights on a couple of our tours is a jet boat ride through Kitselas Canyon. The narrow canyon restricts the flow of the Skeena River into two narrow channels. The narrowing made the canyon unnavigable for the Sternwheelers of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Their engines and paddles were not to propel them through the canyon during all but low water levels. This made the need for large steel bolts to be drill into the rock island in the middle of the canyon. The sternwheelers were then able to run a steel cable through the bolts and back to the capstan to winch the boat through. Ringbolt Island has the highest concentration of bolts but they are also lined all the way up the canyon. Every time we boat through the canyon we spot new ones. They blend in with the moss covered rocks and can be difficult to see. Be one of the few people to see this part of the Skeena River History and visit the Island during one of our adventure tours.
The Skeena River is fed by thousands of waterfalls cascading down the mountain slopes into it’s tributaries. A couple of the rivers we venture up are untouched with no roads or industry and the steep valley walls are a perfect recipe for hundreds of waterfalls. During the spring melt and after a rainfall the valley rocks walls become alive with waterfalls cascading in all directions. With UNBC’s Adventure Tours “Experience the Extraordinary!”
One of the highlights on our 2016 “Skeena River Historical Jet Boat Journey” was a visit by boat to the Gitxsan Community of Gitegukla. Gitsegukla roughly translates to “people living under the precipice” or more specifically under the “Segukla” or “sharp-pointed” mountain. A few of the community members toured us through the village to view a variety of poles and told us about the history of each. Each pole represents a house or family crest that illustrate historical events that occured in the past.
Totem poles are typically not maintained after their raising and usually last from 60 to 75 years with a few reaching 100 years of age. A fallen pole is usually left to rot in the in the place it has fallen and thee owners can commission a new one to replace it.
We can’t wait to go back in early August 2017 on the Skeena River Tour to visit them again!
Taking a jet boat through the historic Kitselas Canyon is definitely one of the highlights of a couple of our tours where we run jet boat with our guests through the Canyon. The full force of the Skeena River is condensed into two narrow channels that were just wide enough for a sternwheeler to navigate through. It wasn’t until 1891 that the first Sternwheeler “Caledonia” was successful where others failed in running up and through the churning waters of the canyon. Running through the canyon is always an exhilarating ride but especially during high water in the spring when the full volume of water pours through. One of the most notable incidents in the canyon was the sinking of the Hudson’s Bay Company Sternwheeler the “Mount Royal”. It was July 6, 1907 when a blast of wind turned the boat sideways as it entered the upper canyon. This wind turned it sideways and wedged it sideways across Ringbolt Island where it eventually sank.
On our UNBC Adventure Tours guest safety is one of our main concerns. With many of our tours utilizing jet boats we must enure the drivers have a vast amount of experience driving jet boats and familiarity with the rivers and ocean that we take guests up. We many pre-trip inspections of the waters we venture into to ensure we do not incur any surprises. One of our drivers is Terrace resident Fred Seiler and owner of Northwest Jet Boat Services http://northwestjetboat.ca/. Fred has thousands of hours of experience on the rivers and also instructs our UNBC Jet Boat Safety course. Our guests are in good hands with Fred at the helm of the jet boat.
One of the things we strive to include in all of our tours is the “uniqueness” of all aspects. Our locations that we visit are all unique northern BC focused. On our Skeena River Historical Journey we re-trace the route and history of the early 1900 paddlewheelers that navigated the infamous Skeena River from Hazelton to Port Essington. Our goal for this tour is to have the guests overnight in accommodations as close to the Skeena River as possible and have their luggage transported to the next nights accommodations and have it waiting there for them while they are on the river learning about the history and taking in the sights. One of these is the Soaring Spirits Lodge in which we spend out first night. These unique raised “tent” sites are quite luxurious and will make for a special story and memory that you will never forget. Our Skeena River Tour is scheduled for August 1-6, 2017.