While Kitimat and Kitamaat Village share much of the same history as Terrace and Prince Rupert, the one important difference for Kitimat is its founding with the construction of the Aluminum Company of Canada (Alcan) in the 1950’s. It was built as a company town.
Even though the town’s future is precarious, after major industry closures and shaky world economics, Kitimat is worthy of the short 45 minute drive from Terrace. Certainly not a shopping destination, Kitimat lacks the bevy of tourist traps and you will immediately notice entering a time warp if you pay any attention to building design.
Of course, on board with me for every trip I take is Asylum, the world’s worst guard dog and my ever present companion. He enjoys pinning back his ears and letting the wind blast his face while comfortably balanced on the arm rest of the rear door of my car. It looks like fun, but I tried it once and it wasn’t. To each their own.
Driving south on Highway 37 from Terrace, one of the things that strikes me is how green and lush the area is. Every shade of green is represented on trees, shrubbery and grasses, and when there is a break in the continuous flow of forest, I am treated to the layers of coastal mountains that were formed here millions of years ago.
I am not what you would call a beach bum, but Lakelse Lake Provincial Park is about twenty minutes from Terrace and its beaches are a Mecca for residents of the region. If the sun is shining brightly, you can bet your bottom dollar that Lakelse Lake is hosting kids of all ages. There are picnic areas here as well if you want to pick up a lunch at the deli and enjoy it in the great outdoors.
On this particular drive, something caught my eye as we drove over a bridge crossing the Kitimat River. Stopping for a quick peek, it was two grizzly bear cubs wrestling over a salmon. I stood and watched from the bridge as they fed, all the while hoping to see mommy bear join in the frenzy. Unfortunately, she did not make an appearance for the camera.
There are two natural places Asylum and I enjoy in Kitimat. One of the breathtaking destinations is the Giant Spruce Park, a small forested area within the town boundaries that is home to mammoth spruce trees, some dating back 500 years. One of the Sitka Spruce trees measures about 11.4 meters (almost 38 feet) in circumference and is the oldest known living organism in the Kitimat Valley and the largest living Sitka Spruce in British Columbia. Standing at the base of these giants, I could only marvel at the tales it could tell as it towered over the forest. Thankfully, it is protected by law, otherwise it would be harvested and would provide enough lumber to frame nine average size houses.
The other little gem in Kitimat is Moore Creek Falls, located directly across from the Alcan administration building. There is only one small sign indicating access to the snowfall melt that sustains the falls, and it is easy to miss, so it is best to watch for the Alcan building as the marker. There are 26 steps carved into the earth leading to the viewing platform and the water is absolutely crystal clear.
For specific directions to these highlights, I recommend stopping in at the Visitor Centre located just before you enter Kitimat.
Kitamaat Village is located approximately 13 kilometres from the town of Kitimat. Signage on Highway 37 immediately after the Visitor Centre will point you in the right direction. Home to the Haisla First Nations, Kitimaat Village is a hub of commercial and cultural activity. The Haisla First Nations was formed by a merger of the Gitamat (Kitamaat), People of the Snow, and the Gitlope (Kitlope), People of the Rocks. They spoke similar dialects and amalgamated in 1948-1949. What are now referred to as the Haisla have occupied and flourished in this area for centuries.
The Haisla proudly share their cultural and heritage in a number of ways, one of which is by offering guided tours of the area for bear viewing, whale watching, natural coastal hot springs experience, and local cuisine, including the only fresh seafood restaurant in Northwest British Columbia. It would take an entire article of its own to properly represent the unique aboriginal experiences of the Haisla, and perhaps that will become a future article, but for now, please enjoy the link provided.
No disrespect to the Kitimat area intended, but I view them as a filler type of experience, one that does not require much planning and forethought. It’s close and committing to a visit to the industrial hub of the region can be made on a whim. So if your itinerary in Northwest British Columbia is a little cramped for time, visiting Kitimat and Kitamaat Village is an excellent way to take in another corner of this most beautiful neck of the province, while not seeming like it is a major undertaking.
Haisla Tourism www.haislatourism.com
Tourism Kitimat www.tourismkitimat.ca
Photographer. Author. Poet. Songwriter. Student of Human Behavior. Community Activist. Social Commentator. Environmental Steward. Wage Slave.