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Online Extra
March 2004



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Exploring the Untouched in the Stikine Country  Parks
By Saadia Iqbal


Stikine River Online Extra
Photograph by Sarah Leen

 


A mountain goat perches on the a wall of the Grand Canyon of Stikine.




The Stikine River Country Parks include the Stikine River Provincial Park, Spatsizi Park, and Mount Edziza Park. They contain geological features widely considered unparalleled for their beauty and grandeur.

Situated in the northwest corner of British Columbia, Canada, approximately 125 miles (200 kilometers) east of Juneau, Alaska, the Stikine River and the Grand Canyon of Stikine are the most famous of the area's geological features.

This spectacular river originates in the Cassiar and Stikine Mountains of northwestern British Columbia and crosses the U.S. border at the Alaska panhandle, meeting the Pacific through several channels. Its name, meaning Great River, originated from the local Tlingit Indians. The river carves its way through a rocky plateau forming the Grand Canyon of Stikine. The canyon extends almost 60 miles (100 kilometers) and its steep walls reach as high as 1000 feet (300 meters). The portion of the river that forms the canyon is situated in the Stikine River Provincial Park.

How to Get There

The best way to access the Stikine River Provincial Park is by flying in to either Smithers or Terrace. Both cities are a daylong drive from the park, up Highway 37. Alternately, one may access the west end of the park by the scenic Telegraph Creek road, 70 miles (110 kilometers) west from Dease Lake, which is served by charter flights. The roads are steep and narrow at places and motorists are advised to use caution. It is also possible to access the upper Stikine by raft, starting in Spatsizi Park and continuing down the river.

Where to Stay

There are also a few companies with resorts and cabin rentals, including the Bear Paw Resort and Spatsizi Wilderness Vacations. (See links below.)

Recreation

Hiking
 
Hiking opportunities are somewhat limited. There is a scenic road through the park, between Telegraph Creek and Dease Lake, with a number of different viewpoints. There are also two moderately short hiking trails in the Stikine River Provincial Park. The first leads from a pullout near the northern park border to a viewpoint overlooking the Tuya River Valley. A second historic trail, starting about six miles (ten kilometers) farther from the first, leads to the floor of the valley and on to the confluence of the Tuya and Stikine Rivers. However, for the most part, this wilderness is not easily accessible on foot, and it is easy to get lost. It is best to have a local guide.

Canoeing and Boating

Canoeing and kayaking on the upper Stikine, offer exciting wilderness river experiences. The lower portion of the river through the Grand Canyon of the Stikine cannot be navigated and tourists are warned not to attempt navigating it under any circumstances.

A primitive boat launch is available on the west side of the Highway 37 bridge.

Helicopter Rides
 
The best way to see the Grand Canyon of Stikine is by helicopter. There is only one company in the area that offers this, but it is generally quite expensive—as much as $1,200 for up to four people. Bear in mind that flight seeing is not allowed in the canyon between May 1 and July 15.

Fishing

The Stikine River contains five salmon species, as well as Dolly Varden, arctic grayling, rainbow trout and cutthroat trout, and the occasional  grayling, whitefish, and ling cod, depending on the time of the year. There are also many excellent fishing lakes in the area, which are easily accessible by floatplane.
 
A valid fishing license is required to fish in British Columbia.

Camping

Camping is allowed, but there are no camping facilities in the Stikine River Provincial Park. The land in the valley bottom of the Tahltan River is Indian reserve, and permission is required to camp there, as it is private land.

Swimming

The water is very cold, and swimming is best avoided.

Wildlife

Stikine River Provincial Park contains two distinct landscape areas, the Southern Boreal Plateau and the Stikine Plateau. The region is home to hundreds of animal species including moose, grizzly and black bears, wolves, coyotes, beavers, hoary marmots, caribou, and mountain goats. The Stikine River contains a variety of fish, and the park also contains many bird species.

Stikine RiverSong Café, Lodge, & General Store Ltd.

Located on the west bank of the Stikine River in the old town of Telegraph Creek, this facility provides accommodation and meals, general groceries, supplies, and auto/marine gas. It supplies tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, and dry bags for extended trips, and offers visitor information and shuttle services. You can also arrange for short trips here, as well as extended motor or float trips down the river, and guided day hikes.

Preparing for Your Trip

Clothing

The best time to visit the Stikine River Provincial Park is in summer, between May and September. But you should be prepared for both very hot and very cold weather, because even during summer the temperature can drop to below 50°F (10°C). Visitors should also bring insect repellent. Rain gear and waterproof footwear are necessary as well as a sun hat, sunglasses, sun screen, a warm hat, and gloves.

Safety

Visitors are strongly advised to obey posted signs and follow designated trails, for their own safety and for the preservation of the park. Taking shortcuts between trails destroys plant life and soil structure.

Sharp drop-offs border the entire Grand Canyon, and broken rock is prevalent in the area, making it extremely dangerous to approach the canyon rim.  Caution is advised.

To avoid potential problems with bears, visitors are asked to lock their food in their vehicles at night.

Water

Water from the Stikine River needs to be boiled before drinking.

Other

Motor vehicles are restricted to the vehicle roads and parking lots and even bicycles may only be ridden on park roads and on designated trails.

Related Links

Ministry of Water, Land, and Air Protection
www.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/explore/parkpgs/spatsizi.htm
Visit the Government of British Columbia's website for safety regulations, maps, and other useful information.

Spatsizi Wilderness Vacations
www.spatsizi.com/index.htm
Plan your trip with help from the Collingwood family—guides and outfitters in the area for 30 years.

Stewart Cassiar
www.stewartcassiar.com/
View maps, photos, and useful information at this website.

Stikine River Provincial Park
www.spacesfornature.org/greatspaces/stikine.html
This website provides details on the area's wildlife and history.

BC Provincial Parks of Northern British Columbia
www.bcadventure.com/adventure/explore/north/parks/
Find information here on the various parks of Northern British Columbia.

Alpine Lakes Air
www.alpinelakesair.com/
Explore sightseeing opportunities at this website. 
 

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