BELLA COOLA VAL­LEY THE HID­DEN JEWEL OF NORTH AMER­ICA

Snowbirds & RV Travelers - - British Columbia -

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

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