Smithers to Prince Rupert
Today we followed the Skeena River through the Coast Mountains with a few stops on the way. The weather was perfect – nary a cloud in the sky.
At Mauricetown Canyon, the river is restricted by high black rock walls to about 20 feet. This makes for a lot of rushing and splashing as there is a large water volume trying to get through the stricture. The First People used this area to capture salmon.
At “The Hazeltons” (several towns at the meeting of the Skeena and Bulkley Rivers) we left Route 16 (New Hazelton) to drive north to Old Hazelton. There we walked through a restored First People’s village (beautiful old cedar buildings with totems) and went into the restored 1800 settlers’ village. While the latter was not particularly impressive, we did enjoy reading the history of the area. At one time this was the commercial center of the Northwest. From 1886 until 1913 this was the terminus for a fleet of sternwheelers which came up the Skeena rapids to bring supplies which were then dispersed to farmers, miners, and settlers further inland. It was a major route for those wishing to get in on the Klondike mining rage of the late 1800s. There is an old sternwheeler affixed to the side of the river (now an art gallery); it’s hard to imagine how that boat pushed its way up the river given the rapids and volume of water we saw flowing.
Probably the most interesting part of our trip up to Old Hazelton was the bridge across the Hagwilget Canyon (Bulkley River). A bridge was known to be here in 1856, built by the Carrier tribe using cedar “ropes” and timbers. It was considered a marvel of primitive engineering. In 1880 when the telegraph was brought through, left over materials were used to reinforce the bridge. The signs said that during this building, the women of the village walked the bridge as it was being built with heavy backpacks while men hung beneath with timbers to see where they needed to reinforce the bridge further. In 1913 the bridge was again rebuilt when, with the completion of the Grand Trunk Pacific railway, the commerce in Old Hazelton grew. This bridge was not very successful as it swung in the wind and threatened to make those crossing seasick. In 1931 the bridge that stands today was built. One of the highest suspension bridges in North America it is 262 feet above the water and just 16 feet wide. I am always fascinated by these now “ghost” towns which were once highly populated centers of activity.
Returning to Route 16 we enjoyed a beautiful ride through stately, snowcapped mountains. A notable set of peaks were the Seven Sisters.
We arrived in Prince Rupert at about four and found our campground. We had chosen to be at the town RV park since it had wifi and a laundry. Both we wanted before heading north to Alaska. The place is a little rundown and the spaces are close, but the wifi is fast. Unfortunately, the laundry was not. The dryers are not very hot, so it took $6.00 and 1.5 hours to dry a load of laundry. Oh, well. We did have a lovely dinner of grilled turkey and “mixed Asian vegetables” with rice.