Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Fraser Canyon ~ Highway 1 ~ BC ~ Canada

We love rv'ing but winter travels can be treacherous in typical winter conditions.  Our options to travel south from Kamloops, BC include a few different routes but due to the recent snowfall warning for the Coquihalla Highway, we chose to travel through the Fraser Canyon.  It had been several years since we'd used the route, especially during the winter but the road conditions sounded good.

The Fraser River arrives in Lytton, BC

The Thompson River flows into the Fraser River at Lytton, BC where the Thompson Canyon meets the Fraser Canyon. The Fraser River continues through the beautiful canyon named after it and is the longest river in BC.  It runs from the Fraser Pass to Mount Robson in the Rocky Mountains travelling 1375 km (854 mi) into the Strait of Georgia at Vancouver, BC.
Cloud formation in the Fraser Canyon
We only had a bit of blue sky to enjoy but the dark clouds made great paintings on the canvas-like sky with enough brightness to create reflections on the hood of the truck.  We enjoyed dry roads for most of our trip through the Fraser Canyon other than some wet spots from recent rain but we had mild temperatures that prevented any ice from forming on the road.
The snow level sits high above the railway
There had been snowfall overnight but the snow level was high above our roads and the railway that runs on either side of the Fraser Canyon rocky walls.  Early transportation through the Canyon before 1862 was on a narrow mule trail, so named as there was only room for one mule. The Cariboo Wagon Road was an improvement in getting through the canyon and was built by 1865.  Sections of that trail were destroyed when the railway was built as there was not enough room on parts of the terrain for both. 

The center of the Fraser Canyon is Boston Bar, BC
During the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush 1858-1860, the canyon between Boston Bar and Spuzzum, BC was called Big or Black Canyon.  The ‘black’ may be due to the color of the rock cliffs when they’re wet.  When the CP Railway was built in the 1860’s, this construction cut off road access to Boston Bar and Lytton except for a difficult wagon trail.  We’ve come a long way since then.

The China Bar Tunnel in the Fraser Canyon
There are a total of seven tunnels that we pass through on our travels through the Fraser Canyon.  The one closest to Boston Bar is called China Bar Tunnel, named after an old mining area. It is a curved tunnel that is the longest of them all at 610 meters (2000’) and one of North America’s longest, the Yale Tunnel is the shortest one at 57m (190’).

Hell's Gate in the Fraser Canyon
At Hell’s Gate, where the canyon walls are about 1000 m (3300’) high, there is an Airtram that operates April to October that will take you on a ride down the canyon walls to see the Fishways, which opened in 1945. Previous to the Airtram opening in 1971, there were trails leading down to the river and I remember making that walk down with family in the early 1960’s.  If memory serves me right, there were no others on the trails that day, it wasn’t an easy trek back then!

Hell's Gate Tunnel
The construction of this portion of the Fraser Canyon Highway was a very tedious and difficult job and was considered a great engineering feat. It began in the late 50’s and I remember traveling through here as a young one and having to pull over to allow traffic to pass by before it was all completed in the mid ‘60’s.  The roads were narrow dirt roads and two way traffic and that made it a scary trip at times, especially when there was big construction equipment using most of that road.

The north side of the Fraser Canyon approaching Yale, BC
We have crossed the Fraser River on the Alexandra Bridge and we now follow the river along the north side.  The Yale Tunnel is the last one we pass through as we approach Yale, a once thriving town during the Gold Rush days. The canyon between Spuzzum and Yale, BC is called Little Canyon because it is the lowest part of the Fraser Canyon.  This is also where the steamboats were able to navigate to from the coast before the river became too difficult to continue.  

The Fraser River at Hope, BC
We’ve now reached the end of our travels through the Fraser Canyon when we reach HopeBC, which is 108 km (67 mi) from Lytton, BC.  The small town of Hope, nestled in the surrounding mountains, is the intersection of 3 major highways.
We had left Kamloops by midmorning to avoid icy road conditions and were very happy to have also been able to not have any rain or snow to contend with, we really couldn't have asked for better winter road conditions and we're ready to continue onto some sunny places. 
To learn much more of what the Thompson and Fraser Canyons have to offer, have a look at  .  They're a wonderful source of information.


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