Set amidst rolling grasslands on the Bella Coola Highway (Hwy 20), the small community of Riske Creek is the gateway to Junction Sheep Range Park and a range of outdoor adventures in the Chilcotin.
The community is named after Mr. L. W. Riske, a Polish pioneer who was amongst the first settlers in the East Chilcotin during the 1860s. He built a flourmill and a sawmill, and supplied produce to the gold town of Barkerville.
Ranching and logging remain as the main industries of the area. With the amenities such as gas, lodgings and general store available this is the ideal spot to begin a Chilcotin adventure.
Visit the historic Chilcotin Lodge and restaurant, an interesting pioneer-style log building. Built in 1940 as a hunting lodge, and serving as a refuge for travellers, the lodge is one of the last remaining authentic lodging facilities in the Chilcotin. In the early days, the lodge also served as Riske Creek’s post office and general store.
Forty kilometres west of Riske Creek, a roadside plaque describes the Yukon Cattle Drive of Norman Lee, who left his ranch in the valley in 1898 with 200 head of cattle on a 1500-mile beef drive to the Klondike gold camps, where surely his beef would fetch a premium price. Five months later, winter forced him to butcher the emaciated herd and load the meat onto scows, which were lost on Teslin Lake, 500 miles short of his destination, Dawson City. Lee returned home, empty-handed but undaunted, to set up shop in what is still known as Lees Corner today.
Nineteen kilometres from the Highway 20 junction, the road crosses the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon, once the site of a native village. A bridge spans the spectacular canyon, carved through limestone and sandstone, creating hoodoos and other water-carved formations on the rock walls. The ancient hoodoo rock formations and native pictographs on the cliff south of the bridge are very popular attractions in the area.
Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park is located at the confluence of the Fraser and Chilcotin Rivers, 15 kilometres south of Highway 20 on Farewell Canyon Road. The 4,573-hectare park provides protection to about 500 California bighorn sheep, one fifth of the world’s population. Naturalists come to view the bighorns, and watch them scaling the steep sandstone riverbanks. Black bears, coyotes, foxes and cougars roam the range and the surrounding region.
Whitewater Rafting: Rafters and kayakers are drawn to the swift Chilcotin River, rated amongst the best – and most challenging – whitewater rivers in North America. The Chilko River, a tributary of the Chilcotin that flows out of Chilko Lake, is also known for its whitewater activities. Not only will the Class lV-V whitewater get your adrenaline glands fluttering, the landscape will too.
The headwaters of the Chilcotin and Chilko lie in the Coast Mountains near the southeast corner of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park. The rivers become runable in the subalpine regions, then they descend to the Chilcotin Plateau’s sprawling grasslands and arid canyons. Some of the most spectacular scenery is found near the Chilcotin’s confluence with the Fraser River. This is an esteemed kayaking and rafting locale, but because of its isolation, the Chilcotin sees relatively few rafters and whitewater kayakers. Chilko’s Lava Canyon scores well with rafters.
Recreation Sites: Located east of Riske Creek are McIntyre Lake Recreation Site and Till Lake Recreation Site, both accessed of Meldrum Creek Road. A few kilometres west of Riske Creek, alongside Highway 20, is Bechers Pond Recreation Site, also known as the Riske Creek Reservoir.
Summer events include the Riske Creek Rodeo and Frontier Days.
Visit the site of the historic Norman Lee Ranch and General Store at Lee’s Corner (Hanceville), located 44 kilometres west of Riske Creek on Highway 20. Living up to its name, the Hanceville General Store offers a post office, snack bar, laundromat, liquor store, guest rooms, fishing licences, and great Chilcotin coffee. Norman Lee was one of the early pioneers and legendary cattle ranchers in the Chilcotin.
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