Circle Tour - From East to West
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.
Riske Creek, Lee's Corner, Alexis Creek
All roads except for Highway 20 are
gravel. You should be sure to check on local conditions before
embarking on your trip.
To start out on your circle tour through the Chilcotin you can leave from Williams Lake and turn west
on Highway 20. Shortly out of town you will cross a bridge
over the mighty Fraser River and start up Sheep Creek Hill
on the other side where you will climb 1400 feet to reach
the rolling, rocky plateau. Keep your eyes peeled for Mule
deer in the fields below and for the possible Bighorn Sheep.
Once you get up on the 'flats' known as Becher's Prairie,
you will pass a sign welcoming you to the Chilcotin and the
beginning of the Riske Creek region (pronounced Risky). Here
you'll find rolling ranch land used for over a century to
graze cattle. Riske Creek proper is approximately 50km or
30 miles from Williams Lake. There are no services but there
is a junction onto a gravel road that will take you to Farwell
Canyon and Sheep Junction Provincial Park. The latter is on
a road that bears southeast and is recommended for 4x4 vehicle
only. The road to Farwell Canyon and the bridge there bears
southwest and is well maintained. Watch for logging trucks.
Farwell Canyon is a fascinating area with steep sand banks
carved into pillar like hoodoos above the river and the home
to some of the most important natural grasslands in Canada.
Here you'll find ancient pictographs down near the river and
one of the largest shifting sand dunes in Canada. This is
home to a great variation in wildlife including an important
herd of Big Horn Sheep. You can continue toward the Gang Ranch
or turn toward Big Creek, which will eventually bring you
back out on the highway at Lee's Corner. However, be aware
that the roads toward the Gang Ranch deteriorate and are not
recommended for some vehicles. There is no fuel available.
Since Farwell Canyon is such a short distance off the highway
from Riske Creek, you may wish to return the way you came.
Lee's Corner (Hanceville)
From Riske Creek you will climb up onto Riske Flats where
you'll have long views of the country and you'll find a lot
of small pine re-growth when the area was logged years ago.
At the end of this region you will see a small sawmill on
the left with a rest area immediately beyond it. Here there
are great views of the canyon below as well as of the rugged
ranch land beyond. From here you descend down several long
hills to Lee's Corner.
Tom Hance was the first permanent settler to the valley south
of the now existing highway. He came to the country in the
late 1860's from an aristocratic Eastern family in Illinois.
He was a fair and honorable gentleman and the first white
man able to achieve a trusting trading relationship with the
warlike Chilcotin Indians and he and his wife, Nellie, developed
a long-standing relationship full of mutual respect.
Hance established a ranch and store where he traded for furs
from the natives, built a school, grist mill, blacksmith shop
and basically supported the small community that built up
around his place. After he was appointed Postmaster, there
was a Post Office that was located on the TH Ranch for 83
years and was run by a member of the Hance family for 77 consecutive
years. He was also appointed to be the local constabulary
and coroner, although he wasn't too keen to accept the latter
position. He built roads and ran a pack train to haul in supplies
for years and then later used teams to haul freight. His family
will always be known for their generosity and helping hand
to anyone that needed it.
In 1884 Norman Lee arrived in the country and established
a ranch in the same area. There is a plaque there commemorating
his famous and ill-fated Yukon cattle drive. The plaque reads:
"Yukon Cattle Drive
Norman Lee left his ranch in this valley in 1898 with 200
head on a 1500 mile "beef" drive to the Klondike
gold camps. Five months later, winter forced him to butcher
the herd. He loaded the meat on scows, which were lost on
Teslin Lake, 500 miles short of Dawson City. Lee returned,
undaunted, to help in the development of the cattle industry
on Chilcotin's productive grasslands." It's said
he arrived back in Vancouver after taking a ship down from
Wrangel, Alaska, with, as he noted, "...a dog,
a dollar, and a blanket." He spent the dollar
on a drink so as to have "...a fresh start with
a clean slate." And so he did.
Norman Lee, his wife and stepson as well as grandsons, established
well known ranches and on the site of one, located a store.
In 1913 the Lee family sold their interests but had to foreclose
and return to the property in 1918 when the new owners became
several years in arrears of payment. Lee's Corner Store was
run by a Lee up until 1989 when it was sold to new owners.
The old Post Office that had been on the Hance ranch was eventually
moved in next to the store and this famous spot along the
highway is known as Lee's Corner where you can still buy fuel,
propane, groceries, and get a great bite to eat.
Alexis Creek is located 113km or 71 miles west of Williams
Lake on a grasslands bench above the Chilcotin River. It was
named for Chief Alexis, the chief of the Chilcotin tribes
during the Chilcotin Indian Wars. The fierce Chilcotins had
a long history of warfare, retaliation, and primitive brutality
toward other tribes and even within their own bands, so they
did not hesitate to commit murder, rob or threaten massacre
of would-be settlers that arrived in the country. However,
traders and settlers that came with respect and fair dealings
were eventually accepted.
At one time, Alexis Creek was a thriving community and the
largest in the Chilcotin, with some of the best cattle land
around that could be irrigated by the milky green Chilcotin
River. It is still home to a very large ranch, has a medical
clinic, a general store, a large Forestry office and an RCMP
detachment. Unfortunately, many other buildings, an old hotel,
motel, and a couple of family eateries stand empty at this
point in time.
The Alexis Creek town site faces the river and is backed by
a high rimrock that lines the valley clear to Bull Canyon
to the north. Here, just a couple of miles from Alexis Creek,
a high bluff called Battle Rock stands on the east side of
the highway and was the scene of a massacre of Shushwap Indians
who were pushed off the bluff by a Chilcotin warrior party.
Across from Battle Rock on the south side of Highway 20, is
Bull Canyon. It's a lovely three acre park down on the aqua
green waters of the Chilcotin River with parking spots for
RV's, overnight campers, and day campers. It's a favorite
stopping place for visitors on their way to the West Chilcotin.
As you continue west along Highway 20, watch for Mule Deer
along and on the road, especially at dawn and dusk. Drive