The Bella Coola Valley
As there have been some changes to
the "Discovery Coast Ferry Route "(Route # 40), the West Chilcotin
Tourism Association recommends that you check the latest ferry
schedules, type of ferry, and amenities, before embarking
on your trip.
"They called it a highway, but
it was only two ruts really, and took 10 hours to traverse."
- One of the first people to drive the 'Hill' in 1953
Bella Coola is where you will either end or begin the water
leg of the circle tour. Be sure to check with the BC Ferries
schedule before planning your trip!
The Bella Coola Valley is a gem set in a necklace of craggy
peaks. The entire length of the Valley is protected by mountains
of the Coast Range and terminates at the head of the North
Bentinck Arm which is 60 miles from the Pacific Ocean proper.
As a result, although it sees rainfall, it's nothing like
the outer coast regions, and yet people in the valley still
enjoy a very temperate climate.
The Nuxalk people occupied the valley long before the first
explorers such as Captain George Vancouver's surveyors who
first mapped the Bentinck Inlet and Alexander Mackenzie who
arrived overland in 1773. Aside from the rich hunting and
fishing available to the Native people in the valley, there
was tremendous trade between them, other coastal people, and
the tribes on the Chilcotin Plateau via the 'grease' trail.
So named for the Oolichan fish oil carried over the trail
inland to be traded for obsidian, furs and other goods. By
the mid 1800's the Hudson Bay Company had set up a trading
post and by 1892, the first settlers had begun to arrive.
Norwegian settlers were first drawn here over 100 years ago
because of the incredible resemblance to the fjords and valleys
of their own country and set about settling and farming the
valley. Little communities such as Stuie, Firvale and Hagensborg
sprang up, and industry expanded from farming, to fishing,
logging and commercial canneries across the inlet from Bella
The valley has several large rivers flowing to the ocean,
the most well known being the Atnarko, Bella Coola, Nusatsum
and Saloompt. The Atnarko and Bella Coola Rivers are famous
for their salmon fishing and favorites for drift fishing as
well as fishing from shore with fly lines or lures.
The rainforest environment with plentiful berries and abundant
fish during the salmon runs supports a large grizzly and black
bear population. There are several operators that offer guided
tours in the valley if you would like an opportunity to view
the bruins and other wildlife. There are also several guided
hiking trips or you can get maps and go it alone.
Bella Coola offers tremendous saltwater fishing for halibut,
salmon, rock cod, crab, and more and there are several fishing
boats available for charter. Or simply charter a yacht to
explore the channels, inlets and islands of Bentinck Arm and
Explore the ancient petroglyphs estimated to be at least
4000 years old or follow in Alexander Mackenzie's footsteps
along a portion of the 'grease' trail. Immerse yourself in
Nuxalk culture or simply walk around Bella Coola, view the
various totems and explore their gift shops and galleries.
The Bella Coola Valley is home to numerous waterfalls, many
of which snake down the steep mountain faces overshadowing
the valley, but one in particular is quite accessible. Clayton
Falls is just past the Bella Coola harbour marina and is a
sight to behold. The falls are truly awe inspiring and help
provide much of the hydro electricity to Bella Coola. There
is a viewing platform there, and a beautiful place to have
your lunch at a picnic table just across the road
and down on the saltchuck. There is also a mysterious little
waterfall tucked away in a grotto coming back from the harbour
to Bella Coola townsite on your right hand side. Keep your
eyes peeled because it is hidden and there are no signs, but
The jewel of the valley is Tweedsmuir Park on the easternmost
end of the valley. It extends from the foot of the famous
Bella Coola Hill up over the top and includes Heckman Pass.
As the largest protected park in British Columbia, it offers
everything in the way of wilderness adventure. Teeming with
wildlife, the park is a great place to be for wildlife viewing
as well as fishing, hiking, trail riding, canoeing, snowmobiling,
cross country skiing, downhill skiing and pretty much any
other activity you would like to take on. The park has a massive
trail system, including a good portion of the Alexander Mackenzie
Heritage Trail also known as the Grease Trail, which is several
hundred miles long and can take a month to complete. The park
is also home to Hunlen Falls, the third highest freefall waterfall
in Canada and is a favorite with canoeists for its famous
Turner Lake Chain from which the waterfall flows.
There are lots of events held throughout the year in the Bella
Coola Valley. There's the Bella Coola Rodeo, Fall Fair, and
they put on a terrific Music Festival in July bringing in
big name bands and singers. Check with the local tourism association
to find out more about events and activities being held in
There are several services available in Hagensborg, Bella
Coola and throughout the valley including grocery stores,
fuel stations, restaurants, inns, B&B's, cabins and RV
and tent camping sites. There is a lodge and camping within
Tweedsmuir Park itself. Hagensborg offers an extensive selection
of lodging nearest to the park as well as dining, but you'll
find accommodation all along Highway 20 to Bella Coola proper.
Operators - Bella Coola