Tucked into the far northwestern tip of British Columbia, the remote and spectacularly beautiful community of Atlin graces the eastern shore of the mighty Atlin Lake, headwater of the Yukon River and named after the Tlingit word atlah, meaning ‘Big Water’ – very appropriate for the largest natural lake in the province.
This once-bustling centre was born during the Great Rush of 1898, when gold was discovered in nearby Pine Creek.
Most of the year-round residents of Atlin have stayed for more than one reason, but in general, they quite simply want to live in one of the quaintest and most colourful little towns, nestled in the heart of a valley that is simply stunning in its beauty and grandeur.
Along the lake’s western edge, the majestic Coast Range stretched to the north and the south, as far as the eye can see. There, snow-laden peaks keep silent watch over the entrance to the Torres Channel, gateway to the incredible wilderness area which lies beyond. To the south, where rock combines with ice and water to form some of the most spectacular scenery found anywhere, lies Atlin Wilderness Park, fully one-third of which is occupied by glaciers. One of the most prominent of these is Llewellyn, whose great tongues of ice melt into Atlin Lake, releasing the sediments that give the lake its incredible aquamarine hue.
Location: Atlin is located in the extreme northwest corner of British Columbia, about 112 miles (180 km) southeast of Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. Access to Atlin is by floatplane on Atlin Lake, or by road from the Yukon to the north.
Gold Rush: Atlin was the site of the final great gold rush in Canadian history, with many of the area’s streams producing some of the best gold panning in the history of British Columbia. The early miners on Pine Creek discovered the remains of long abandoned flumes and old sluice boxes. The mystery still remains as to who panned Pine Creek before the rush of 1898.
Atlin`s nearest neighbour in British Columbia is Telegraph Creek, 250 km to the southeast (as the bald eagle flies) on the Stikine River. The communities of Atlin and Telegraph Creek were once connected by the Telegraph Trail, originally built by work parties from the Collins Overland Telegraph Company and intended to provide North America with direct communication to Europe. However, an Atlantic cable was completed first, in September of 1866, eliminating the need for an overland cable. The Klondike gold rush saw the trail extended to the Yukon – completed in 1901. Now overgrown, the 375-km trail was once bustling with travellers, hunters and the men who operated and maintained the Dominion Telegraph line.
Re-live the Gold Rush by visiting the Atlin Historical Museum, housed in the 1902 schoolhouse, stroll through the Pioneer Cemetery or pan for gold on Spruce Creek.
Browse the Atlin Courthouse Art Gallery or visit the Taku River Tlingit Centre of Culture.
Wander through the forlorn remnants of nearby Discovery, founded on Pine Creek 10 km above Atlin. Also known as Pine Creek, the once busy gold-mining town started to decline in 1915, once the gold dried up.
Don’t miss the graceful old paddlewheeler M.V Tarahne which, in her glory days, carried passengers and freight the length and breadth of the lake; now she rests on the lake waterfront.
Fishing: Anglers can fish right off the town dock, or cast their lines in the local lakes and streams, where rainbow trout, arctic grayling and northern pike abound. Troll Atlin Lake, where large lake trout are plentiful, or fly-in to the Taku watershed for world-class salmon and steelhead fishing.
Winter Activities: Winter enthusiasts love Atlin for the cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, curling and ice fishing experiences.
Picnic beside Pine Creek Falls, splash around with the kids in the natural warm springs, hike a mountain trail, canoe an isolated lake, or camp on the water’s edge.
Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park marks the extreme northwest corner of the province. The park – the largest in British Columbia – covers 2,366,260 acres (958,000 hectares) of rugged north-coast wilderness and, together with the other three adjacent national parks, comprise the largest contingent area of protected wilderness in the world, at around 21 million acres (8.5 million hectares).
The Tat, as it is known to people who have difficulty pronouncing the full name, is also designated by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site. The blood that flows through the Tat’s veins is the icy cold water of hundreds of streams that feed that Tatshenshini and Alsek Rivers. There are two established entries into the park along the Haines Hwy (Hwys 3 and 7) from Yukon or Alaska and these provide access for hikers, backpackers, and mountain bikers. There are a very few trails in the park; for the most part, you have to make it up as you go along. Fortunately, game trails are plentiful. There are very few mountain-bike trails in the northwest, and many multi-use trails are too overgrown to make mountain biking any fun. A pleasant surprise for the avid fat-tracker is that, unlike most provincial parks in this region, and indeed, in the province, the Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Wilderness Park is open to mountain bikers. The park also supprts more than 53 species of mammals, including wolverines, blue (or glacier) bear, and grizzlies. Although Atlin is the nearest town in B.C. to the Tat, the distance is 100 miles (160 km) to the eastern edge of the park.
Circle Tours: See the best of Northern BC on one of the Circle Tours that capture the wonders of the north. The Circle Tour of Northern British Columbia incorporates the Alaska Highway through the Rocky Mountain foothills to Watson Lake in the Yukon, linking with the Stewart/Cassiar Highway and Yellowhead Highway 16 in the south. The Inside Passage Circle Tour and the Native Heritage Circle Tour follow the same route, from Port Hardy on Vancouver Island north by ferry to Prince Rupert. Catch another ferry to the Queen Charlotte Islands, or venture east on the Yellowhead Highway to Prince George, and south through the peaceful Cariboo to Vancouver along the historic Cariboo Wagon Road.
Circle Tours in British Columbia.