Skeena River Attractions
The mighty fast-flowing Skeena River (called "K-shian" or "water from the clouds" by the Indians), about 500 km / 310 mi long, played an important role in opening up the Canadian north-west. In the second half of the 19th c. this ancient Indian trade route became much used by European settlers as well, and from 1889 onwards sternwheelers plied its waters until the coming of the railway. Huge quantities of wood were needed to fuel the steamers on their way up the Skeena River, leading to a string of little settlements with jetties where stockpiles were kept. Most of these were gradually abandoned after the railway was built.The stretch of railroad across the Coast Mountains posed serious problems for the engineers, vast amounts of explosives being used to blast a route through the granite of the Skeena valley. The 150 km / 93 mi from Prince Rupert to Terrace cost $100,000 per mile, an enormous sum in 1910.The Skeena River and its tributaries teemed with salmon, as a result of which canneries sprang up along its lower course. Fleets of fishing boats, generally two-man cutters, followed the shoals upstream. In the first half of the 20th c. depletion of salmon stocks caused by over fishing forced many plants to close.
Lakelse Lake Provincial Park
Across the new Skeena River bridge (completed in 1976) Hwy. 37 South branches off Hwy. 16 to Kitimat, a small town 60 km (37 mi.) distant, at the head of a fiord penetrating deep inland. Some 26 km (16 mi.) along the road lies Lakelse Lake (pronounced "La-kelse", Tsimshian for "freshwater mussel") where large quantities of mussels can be found even today.From an ecological point of view the Lakelse Lake Provincial Park (campground, etc.) remains largely intact - hemlock fir, gigantic Sitka spruce and, not least, red cedar all being found in the area. There is good swimming and excellent walking.In August thousands of sockeye and blueback salmon arrive to spawn in Williams Creek. Black bears are common in the Lakelse Lake Provincial Park and trumpeter swans, otherwise threatened with extinction, winter on the lake.
Address: c/o BC Parks Skeena District, 3790 Alfred Avenue, Smithers, BC V0J2N0, Canada
Lakelse Hot Springs
At the Lakelse Hot Springs, 6 km (4 mi.) to the south of Lakesle Lake, mineral water without taste or smell gushes out at a temperature of 42-72°C (108-162°F). The first albeit modest hotel was built here as long ago as 1910, but with Prince Rupert rather than Kitimat being chosen for the terminus of the trans-continental railway the spa was never fully developed.
An information board, some foundations, and a number of decayed wharves are a sad reminder of Port Essington, which was for 50 years the most important harbor on the Skeena River. Port Essington first came into existence in the 1870s during the Omineca gold-rush, quickly developing into a center of river navigation and fishing. The arrival of the railway and the disappearance of the salmon led to its decline. By the 1950s only a few Indians and one or two fishermen remained. The bulk of the town was destroyed by a big fire in 1961.