One of our first tours of the year is the “Canneries of the North Coast” and also one of the most unique. Over the 4 days we visit over 18 remnants of the salmon canneries of the lower Skeena River and the islands at the entrance to it. Names like Balmoral, Humpback Bay, Claxton and Carlisle to name a few. We also visit some of the most remote fishing related communities on the north coast like the Icelandic Community of Osland and the boat building town of Oona River. Plus we stay 4 nights in a cannery at one of the most unique accommodations in BC- Cassiar Cannery. The trip is for those who like small group sizes and getting off the beaten path to see some of the most unique sites on the north coast.
One of the most unique journeys in northern British Columbia is the trip down the Skeena River from Hazelton to Prince Rupert. We retrace the journeys of the First Nations and the early explorers as the Skeena River flows 300 km through the Coast Mountains. The beauty and awe inspiring scenery is truly remarkable! During the five day trip via two jet boats we will overnight at various accommodations adjacent to the river. This all-inclusive expedition includes great culinary meals in some very unique locations.
For those looking for an adventure of a lifetime the 300 km Jet Boat Journey down the Skeena River is a must! This trip begins the 5 day journey down the river in the town of Hazelton and commences in the historic Cassiar Cannery in the Skeena River Estuary. The month of August typically provides great weather for the expedition. The scenery on the trip is unparalleled as the river carves its way through the coastal mountains and snow capped peaks. The history along the river is truly amazing as we visit many places of historical significance. Don’t miss this August 5-10, 2018 trip that is limited to 10 guests on two jet boats!
The lower Skeena River on British Columbia’s North Coast was line with over 26 canneries starting in 1877 with the Inverness Cannery. Inverness was situated in the Skeena Slough or one arm of the delta of the Skeena River before it empties into the Pacific Ocean. This slough is also Known as “Cannery Row” due to the numerous canneries which lined it’s shores. North Pacific Cannery and Cassiar Cannery still have substantial remains with North Pacific now a national historic site. Other than these two relatively easily accessible canneries, many of the other ones are boat access only and at different stages of decay and remaining remnants. The hidden treasures that remain and the stories they tell are truly amazing. One of the best sources of information on the canneries is Gladys Blyth’s book “Salmon Canneries British Columbia North Coast”. We are fortunate to be able to deliver a 3 day tour to these sites plus many other fishing villages and historic sites in our “Canneries of the North Coast Tour”. Through the UNBC “Northern BC Adventures Program”
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.
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.
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.
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.