BELLA COOLA VALLEY THE HIDDEN JEWEL OF NORTH AMERICA
STORY & PHOTOS BY CINDY PHILLIPS & GORDON BARON
For thousands of years the “Nuxalk” people from Bella Coola used a path leading through the coast mountain range, climbing to the interior of BC to trade eulachon’s and salmon with the interior First Nations villages. This route was known as the “Grease Trail”.
In 1793, Sir Alexander Mackenzie and his voyagers used the trail to end their historic journey to the Pacific Ocean. This was the first recorded crossing of the North American continent by land; 432km of this route is designated as the “Alexander Mackenzie Heritage trail”.
Crossing the rolling plains of the Chilcotin from Williams Lake into Tweedsmuir Park and the Coast Mountain Range is a distance of about 340km. This is the provinces biggest provincial park.
The road drops elevation at Heckman Pass, down the famous “Hill” to the Bella Coola Valley and out to the Pacific Ocean. The transformation from alpine meadows 1500m (5,000ft) to the Valley in 30km is stunning. The road slices through the glaciated mountains to the old grown forest below.
Scenic Hwy 20 has the mountains of Switzerland, fjords of Norway, outback of Australia and the wildlife of Alaska, giving the traveler a winning combination for the ultimate holiday adventure. In 1894, a colony of Norwegians came from Minnesota and Wisconsin to Bella Coola and settled 16 km up valley from the Pacific Ocean and started the community of Hagensborg.
Today, the summer commercial opening for salmon fishing has been cut from five days a week to one or two days a week. To diversify their income, the fishermen started doing one to four day sports fishing charters. This has turned into British Columbia’s largest fleet of gillnet boats used for sports fishing. In the summer, the road at the marina is lined with cars, trucks and RV’s. Fishing for salmon in the Bella Coola River has