Hazelton BC, A Journey Through Time
The first time I heard about Hazelton in northern British Columbia was during a birch sapping workshop in Quesnel where on of the participants was from Hazelton. Since then I always intended to go and visit the area. Finally, I had the opportunity on my drive down from the Yukon.
The Hazeltons officially consists of several communities, a mixture of municipalities, unincorporated settlements and First Nation villages. The area is known as the historic heartland of northwest British Columbia and has been the home of the Gitksan and Wet’suwet’en people for centuries. Pioneer settlement started in the 1860’s and made Hazelton into bustling communities. Today, you get an insight into the rich Native culture and history of the Northwest Coast when you take a drive to the communities in the Upper Skeena region.
The Hazeltons are located 290 km east of Prince Rupert and 60 km northwest of Smithers on the paved Yellowhead Trans Canada Highway 16. At Kitwanga, 50 km west of New Hazelton, The Stewart-Cassiar Highway 37 heads northward to the Yukon and Alaska.
Start your culture journey at The Hazeltons Visitor Centre on highway 16 in New Hazelton
Pick up brochures and maps of the area and the Hazelton Tour Guide flyer. From the visitor centre start your self guided driving tour through the Upper Skeena region. The entire tour covers 240 km but can be shortened to fit your schedule and interests. The tour will take 4 to 8 hours. The route has two segments, each starting at the Visitor Centre.
The first segment of your trip takes you across Hagwilget Canyon Bridge, to the riverfront, to the pioneer community of Hazelton, to Ksan Historical Village and Museum and into Kispiox Village and its display of totem poles. The second part of the tour follows the Skeena River westward, and takes you to the totems of Gitanyow and Gitwangak, past historic churches and to Kitwanga Fort National Historic Site. There are many scenic places to stop along the route and to enjoy your adventure. You will not be disappointed.
Most of the communities have a few small stores and businesses, but the District of New Hazelton is the service hub, with greater accommodation and dining options.
What To See And Do
Drive around the Totem Pole capital of the World. More than 50 authentic, amazing totem poles can be seen in the Hazeltons and surrounding villages. Spend a few days exploring the unique communities to fully appreciate the magic of the place. Visit aboriginal cultural sites such as word renowned Ksan Historical Village and Museum.
Impressive Hagwilget Bridge
Park your car and walk across the Hagwilget Bridge. It’s one of the highest suspension bridges in North America, hanging over the scenic waters of the Bulkley River.
Ksan Historical Village and Museum
Tour the First Nations heritage site. Learn about Gitxsan history and culture and see carvers at work. Within walking distance ar Ksan campground and RV park.
Old Town Hazelton
Explore one of the oldest pioneer communities in Northwest BC. Visit the Hazelton Pioneer Museum in the library building. Stroll past restored buildings in the downtown area. The Anglican Church dates back to the 1880s. Walk along the riverfront and join a free walking tour at the tourist information kiosk just upstream from the replica riverboat.
Glen Vowell Village
Visit the small community alongside the Skeena River with a Victorian style Band administration building and the Salvation Army Church, a heritage building which reminds us of the missionary era.
Stop at this large community with 600 residents known for its master carvers, totems, and scenic setting. Take a walk on the Kispiox Rodeo Grounds and to the river. The annual Kispiox Valley Rodeo is held the first weekend in June and the annual Kispiox Valley Music Festival, the last weekend in July.
Enjoy the magic of the totems with the sound of the Kitwancool River in the background. More than twenty towering sculptures display images of another world.
Kitwanga and Gitanyow
Admire authentic totem poles (about 11 in Kitwanga and more than 15 in Gitanyow. Visit Gitwangak Battle Hill National Historic Site see the remains of the five cedar plank longhouses that were occupied for at least 100 years. Panels along the trail tell the story.
8 to 10 excellent examples of the carver’s art. St. Paul’s Anglican Church is another distinctive church is another reminder of the missionary past.
There is lots more to see and explore around The Hazeltons. The longer you stay the more of the rich history, attractions and recreations you will discover.
Various outdoor activities like hiking, boating, fishing, and heliskiing are popular in the area.
Provincial Parks Near Hazelton
- Ross Lake Provincial Park
- Anderson Flats Provincial Park
- Bulkley Junction Provincial Park
- Seeley Lake Provincial Park
Hazelton residents are a tough bunch feel a connection with the land and rivers. Famous locals include 2008 Olympic gold medal winner wrestler Carol Huynh, and local legend Simon Gunanoot, a prosperous Gitxsan merchant who was charged with the murder of two white men in the early 1900s. According to the tale, Gunanoot feared an unfair trial. Therefore he and his family hid in the Hazelton wilderness for more than 13 years before he was pardoned.
Tourist Information Centre
Hazeltons Visitor Centre and Museum is located on Highway 16 in New Hazelton. The Visitor Centre is open June to September www.hazeltonstourism.ca.
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