Provincial Park and Recreation Area, at over 2.2 million acres (895,000 hectares)
and one of British Columbia's biggest parks, is most easily accessed from Highway
20, which bisects the southern half of the park east of Bella Coola. Established
in 1938 and since enlarged, it is named for the 15th Governor-General of Canada,
John Buchan, Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield, who travelled extensively throughout
the park in 1937 and was greatly impressed by its magnificence.
Highway 20 in Tweedsmuir
Roughly triangular in shape, Tweedsmuir Provincial Park is bounded on the north
and northwest by the Ootsa-Whitesail Lakes Reservoir, on the west and southwest
by the Coast Mountains, and on the east by the Interior Plateau. The park encompasses
an astounding diversity of landscapes and conditions. Because access, facilities,
and activities differ from north to south, the park is divided into two sections,
with the Dean River acting as a natural boundary between the north and south.
Tweedsmuir South Provincial
Park comprises many natural history features, as well as some incredibly diverse
landscapes in the Coast Mountains and Interior Plateau regions. The Interior Plateau
(which includes the Fraser, Chilcotin, and Nechako Plateaus), in the eastern portion
of the park, is a rolling and hilly landscape. Within the park, the plateau is
warped sharply upward to more than 6,560 feet (2,000m) and is largely covered
with glacial drift. East of the park near Anahim Lake, the Interior Plateau abruptly
gives way, at an elevation of about 4,430 feet (1,350 m), to peaks of the Rainbow
Range. The peaks of the Rainbow Range - Tsitsutl in the local dialect, meaning
'painted mountains' - form an enormous dome of eroded lava and fragmented rock
that presents an astonishing spectrum of reds, oranges, yellows, and lavenders.
with the vivid colouration and gentler slopes of the Rainbow Range are the higher
and more rugged Coast Mountains. Vast glaciers sculpted these granite giants,
leaving behind serrated peaks that are still being eroded by the alpine ice. A
special feature in the upper Atnarko watershed is the magnificent Hunlen Falls,
with its 853-foot (260-metre) single drop over a sheer rock face. It is one of
the highest waterfalls in Canada.
© Dave and Rosemary Neads, Precipice Valley
Four biogeoclimatic zones lie within the southern half of Tweedsmuir: alpine tundra,
Engelmann spruce/subalpine fir, sub-boreal spruce, and coastal western hemlock.
From the east, travellers on Highway 20 pass through the lower reaches of the
Englemann spruce/subalpine fir zone in Heckman Pass (elevation 5,000 feet/1,525
m) at the park's eastern boundary, about 223 miles (360 km) west of Williams Lake.
The road drops quickly down the Bella Coola Hill, passing through dry lodgepole
pine stands on Young Creek Hill to reach the Atnarko Valley, with its fir and
low-lying Atnarko and Bella Coola Valleys have a more coastal climate and vegetation.
Towering specimens of coastal hemlock, western red cedar, and some remnant Douglas
fir, as well as a great deal of black cottonwood on the valley floors, thrive
in forests carpeted with giant sword ferns and tangles of huckleberries, blueberries,
raspberries, wild roses, thimbleberries, salmonberries, wild lilies, and orchids,
to name but a few of the many plant species found here. With
all those berries, it's no wonder there are many bears. Both grizzly and black
bears occupy the Atnarko and Bella Coola Valleys. In autumn they congregate along
riverbanks to feast during the annual salmon spawning migrations.
Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail runs through Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, but
it's not the only trail of length in this park. West of Tweedsmuir Provincial
Park's headquarters on Hwy 20 (just west of the sani-station at Mosher Creek)
is the start of the Tweedsmuir Trail, which leads north about 22 miles
(35 km) to the Rainbow Cabin on the Alexander Mackenzie Heritage Trail. The Tweedsmuir
Trail can also lead you to the Rainbow Range.
Green River, Tweedsmuir
Park, Chilcotin, BC
The Hunlen Falls/Turner Lakes Trail (strenuous; 36 miles/58 km return)
along the Atnarko River begins at the Young Creek picnic site east of park headquarters.
This trail passes through prime grizzly bear habitat, and hikers should use caution
at all times. Hiking alone is not recommended. As always, be bear aware and avoid
confrontations with these wild creatures. Hikers should allow 10 to 12 hours to
reach the north end of Turner Lake, where there is a primitive campground.
West of Hunlen Falls, there
is good alpine hiking along the Ptarmigan Lake Trail (moderate; 15 miles/24
km return), which ascends to Panorama Ridge. Magnificent trumpeter swans winter
at Lonesome Lake, (19 miles/31 km from Young Creek), made famous by writer
Ralph Edwards, who homesteaded here in 1912. His descendants still live in the
area and operate the nearby Hunlen Wilderness Camp. The Junker Lake Trail
(moderate; 13 miles/21 km return) starts at the north end of Turner Lake. Rolling
pine flats and forest meadows make for an easy hike that leads to a delightful
sandy beach on Junker Lake.
Rainbow Range Trail (easy; 10 miles/16 km return) heads north from Hwy
20 near the park's eastern boundary, leading to an alpine environment. The trail
starts in a lodgepole pine forest and climbs through stands of whitebark pine
and alpine fir to a small alpine lake, offering an excellent viewpoint of the
multihued Rainbow Range. Other trails in the area include the Octopus Lake
Trail (moderate; 20 miles/32 km return), the Crystal Lake Trail (moderate;
31 miles/50 km return), and the Capoose Trail (moderate; 17.5 miles/28
Fish Count Tower,
Atnarko River, Tweedsmuir Park
Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, the chain of lakes connected by Hunlen Creek provides
the opportunity for an enjoyable canoe trip of three to five days. Leading
from Turner Lake to Sunshine Lake, a distance of about 17 miles (27.5 km) one
way, this route enjoys calm water, beautiful scenery, good cutthroat trout fishing,
sandy beaches, and wilderness camping. With the exception of 7-mile (11-km) Turner
Lake, the lakes are small. There are six easy, short portages, the longest taking
30 minutes. Although the canoe season begins in June, the best time to enjoy this
delightful corner of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park is in September, once the first
frost has brought an end to insect season. Canoes can be airlifted in or rented
from Tweedsmuir Wilderness Camp on Turner Lake, June 15-September 15.
in Tweedsmuir Park (South) are located on the Atnarko River near park headquarters,
at the bottom of the Hill and farther west at Fisheries Pool, near Stuie. The
Atnarko Campground (28 vehicle/tent sites, including double sites and sani-station)
is situated in a grove of old-growth Douglas fir and is popular with anglers,
as is Fisheries Pool Campground (14 vehicle/tent sites). Most trailers
and RVs can be accommodated, although no hookups are provided.
Campground , Tweedsmuir Park
Park abounds with recreational opportunities for those who desire - and are prepared
for - a wilderness experience. The Rainbow Range north of Highway 20 offers a
network of excellent backpacking and horsepacking trails and wilderness campsites.
There are incredible views of the surrounding Coast Range Mountains from the open,
sub-alpine meadows. There are a lot of primitive campsites dotted throughout the
park. The park is open year-round with full services and fees:
June 1 - September 1
Fisheries campground: June 1 - September 30
sites along Highway 20 in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park include, from east to west,
Rainbow Range, just inside the park's east entrance; Young Creek,
a good place to take a break while driving the Hill; Big Rock, almost 7
miles (11 km) west of park headquarters; Fisheries Pool, in the middle
of the Highway 20 corridor through the park, where there is a covered picnic shelter;
and Burnt Bridge, 16 miles (26 km) west of park headquarters near the park's
Big Rock, Tweedsmuir
Park, Chilcotin, BC
There are approximately 15 km of set cross country skiing
trails at the Rainbow Range Trailhead and there is also downhill skiing opportunities
in this park; The snowmobile area is accessed through the Rainbow Range trailhead,
located about 40 kilometers west of Anahim Lake on Highway 20. The Rainbow Range
is very remote and is subject to sever winter weather. Snowmobilers should prepare
for emergencies such as breakdowns and injuries by carrying tools, spare parts,
extra gas and oil, a first aid kit and survival gear including a portable stove.
The Tweedsmuir Ski Club operates a cabin close to the downhill ski area. Overnight
stays can be reserved by calling the club at (250) 982-2231. The Rainbow Cabin,
located in the Mackenzie Valley, is for emergency use only. Free winter camping
is permitted in the Rainbow Range parking lot. There is an outhouse, but you must
either bring your own drinking water or melt snow. You can obtain fuel, basic
supplies, and motel accommodation in Anahim Lake or Nimpo Lake. The nearest RCMP
office is in Anahim Lake, where there is also a 24-hour medical clinic. The closest
hospital is in Bella Coola, over an hour’s drive from the parking lot. Tweedsmuir
(South) Provincial Park is located 38 miles (60 km) east of Bella Coola on Highway
20. Highway 20 is paved in sections, with good gravel in other portions. The notorious
stretch east of Bella Coola, known locally as 'the Hill,' is 27 miles (43 km)
of steep, narrow road with sharp hairpin turns and two major switchbacks as the
highway descends from the Chilcotin Plateau. Definitely not for drivers who suffer
from a fear of heights, the Hill has a 5.6-mile (9-km) stretch of up to 18-percent
grade. Westbound drivers towing heavy loads may wish to leave their trailers in
the parking lot at the top of the Hill. Safety measures include using low gear
on steep sections and stopping several times to allow your vehicle's brakes to
links with Highway 20 at Williams Lake, which is 148 miles (238 km) south of Prince
George and 126 miles (203 km) north of Cache Creek and Highway 1.
BC Ferries' Discovery Coast Passage route from Port Hardy on the northeastern
tip of Vancouver Island deposits and picks up travellers at Bella Coola. If you
are trying to decide which approach to take, common wisdom has it that the north-south
ferry route is preferable. The Queen of Chilliwack sails from Bella Coola
in the early morning, offering daylight views of the picturesque Dean Channel
and a stop at Ocean Falls.