Fisherman in waders fishing Blackwater River.
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The Blackwater

"This exhausting trek follows in the footsteps of Alexander Mackenzie in 1793" - About the Trail

The Blackwater isn't just about a river but a region full of mystery and legend. It was the final landing place for Pan Phillips and Rich Hobson, two intrepid cowboys determined to build the biggest cattle ranch in some of the most remote country in the world.

The Carrier natives followed a trail called the Grease Trail on the north side of the Blackwater River for centuries in their trade with the Coastal natives. The Grease Trail got its name from the baskets of Ooligan grease carried over the trail from Bella Coola to inland tribes in trade for furs and obsidian. The Ooligan is a small greasy fish similar to smelt, so oily that it's said you can light it and burn it like a candle! The grease was used much as we would use butter both to cook with, pour over food, or to dip dried fish into and was acquired by fermenting the fish and then boiling and skimming the contents of the pot. Locals joke that all the grizzlies in the country were drawn to the trail for centuries by the scent of the fish grease that leaked onto the footpath.

The Grease Trail is more famously known as the route that Alexander Mackenzie was guided over by local natives from inland British Columbia in 1793 in search of a route to the Pacific Coast. They used a combination of the trail and canoes on the river where possible. The heritage trail is 480 km long, can take up to a month to complete and is considered viable for the conditioned hiker only. There are no services or shelters and hikers must make their own arrangements for supply drops along the way.

The Blackwater River drains a huge area of over 12,000 square km that includes both the Rainbow Mountains and the Itcha Illgatchuz Range and isn't actually a noticeable body of water until it empties from Eliguk lake. It drops nearly 2000 feet along its 240 km course where it eventually meets with the Fraser River. Along the way, its name changes from the Blackwater to the West Road River, probably because parts of the Blackwater can be reached by a road out of Quesnel of the same name. A wide, slow moving river in most places, it offers fantastic fly fishing, either by wading or using float rafts or tubes.

The region has a great deal of history associated with it from ancient native villages to the more recent settlement of the area in the last century by the rare but hardy rancher. This area consists mostly of pine forest and grassland and low rolling hills with little of the mountain vistas you will get farther west. Where the river can be accessed, it is very popular for fishing, camping, canoeing, boating, hunting, and snowmobiling in winter.

Operators - Blackwater Region

Itcha Illgatchuz Mountain Outfitters
Anahim Lake
Moose Lake Lodge
Moose Lake
Stewart's Lodge & Camps
Nimpo Lake
 
Girl hiking with heavy pack.
 
Bright red wildflower.
 
Fisherman with fish on in the river.
 
Fisherman and plane in background.
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