Orange sandstone walls of Farwell Canyone near Riske Creek.
Circle Tour
Discovery Coast Circle Tour
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Circle Tour - From East to West
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.

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.

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

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 carefully!

 

Orange and black sign welcoming visitors to the Chilcotin.
 
Two bikers in red with red packs.
 
Overlooking canyon and hill on far side.
 
Green colored river runs through the sand banks of Farwell Canyon.
 
Sand and rock hoodoos at Farwell created by erosion.
 
Two Bighorn sheep on dry grass with sand hills behind.
 
Rolling grasslands, deep canyon cuts and mountains framed by trees.
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