Situated amidst a majestic landscape dominated by the 3000-foot walls of the rugged Rocher de Boule Mountain Range, Hazelton is a wonderful stop off the Yellowhead Highway for visitors travelling between Prince George and Prince Rupert.
Named after the hazel bushes which paint the river-carved terraces, the towns of Hazelton, New Hazelton and South Hazelton are collectively known as The Hazeltons, and the Totem Pole Capital of the World.
The Hazelton area has nurtured northwest coast native cultures at ‘Ksan for over 7,000 years, with the Gitksan and Wetsuwet’en peoples always living here, where the Skeena River meets the Bulkley River. The Skeena River served as an ancient trade route, navigated by 60-foot cedar canoes travelling from the coast upriver to totem-filled villages with magical names like Temlaham, Gitanmax and Kispiox.
First established by white settlers in 1866, Hazelton was the upriver terminus, from 1886 to 1913, for a fleet of sternwheelers which plied the wild rapids of the Skeena, bringing people and supplies to the nearby mines, farms and settlements. The largest community in Northwest BC between 1890 and 1915, Hazelton was a vital centre of activity for prospectors, traders, merchants, pack train operators and missionaries.
A visit to the Hazeltons today is a journey into the historic Heartland of northwest British Columbia. Old Town Hazelton still maintains a friendly pioneer town appearance, which harkens back to the days when shrill whistles signalled the arrival of riverboats and the accompanying boisterous revellery and frontier friendliness. The arrival of the steam train in 1914 eventually changed the nature of the town.
The Hazeltons offer an unsurpassed combination of attractions, scenery, wilderness recreation, Native culture, and trophy salmon and steelhead fishing, all handy to the communities with their array of services for the visitor.
‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum: A “must see” in Hazelton, is one of the finest native heritage sites in Canada, the world-famous ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum. Seven decorated tribal houses fronted with several elaborately carved totems stand silently on the banks of the Skeena and Bulkley Rivers, telling the legends of the totem poles and portraying the lifestyles of generations of First nations people that lived here long ago. See Native carvers performing their craft and, when available, attend the ‘Ksan Dancers’ performance of local native dances. The troupe, which has toured both nationally and internationally, are most widely known for their performance of The Breath of Our Grandfathers, which interprets the highlights of the potlatch celebrations that were outlawed in 1884.
Experience the award-winning, single lane, Hagwilget Suspension Bridge hovering over the deep gorge of Hagwilget Canyon on the Bulkley River – a breathtaking setting and a fascinating sight to behold.
Driving Tour: Follow the Hands of History Tour, a self-guided, 110-kilometre, 15-plaque circle loop between Hazelton and Kitwanga, through the history and culture of the wilderness Northwest.
Walking Tour: A walking tour of this authentic frontier community includes antique pioneer machinery displays, an original steam donkey, heritage sites, the Pioneer Museum, a riverboat replica, and the 100-year-old St. Peter’s Anglican Church.
Artifacts and old photographs at the Hazelton Pioneer Museum and Archives, located in the Hazelton District Public Library, reflect the odd mix of commerce and culture that existed in the boomtown era. Hazelton was a place of frenzied commercial activity and a bastion of Euro-Canadian religion and culture. These forces mixed with the rich traditions of the Gitksan and Wetsuwet’en First Nations to form a truly unique wilderness society.
Take a self-guided Totem Pole Tour of neighbouring Kispiox, Gitanyow, Gitwangak and Kitseguecia – over 50 standing totem poles located in eight scenic Native villages.
River Excursion: A guided riverboat excursion on the Skeena River allows the visitor to view the beautiful scenery and visit the local native villages and other interesting sites.
Learn the story of the famed packer, Cataline, one of the greatest packers British Columbia has ever known. Born Jean Jacques Caux in France around 1820, Cataline operated his pack of 60 mules well into his 70s, delivering an assortment of merchandise along the rugged wilderness routes of BC and the Yukon. His last days were spent in a log shack in Hazelton, his favourite camp along the vast trails he laboriously traversed.
Fishing: Fish the nearby Kispiox River, designated a trophy river by the province of British Columbia, and widely known for its world-class native steelhead trout. In addition to ‘the finest steelhead fishing in all of North America’, the Kispiox yields an abundance of coho salmon, rainbow, cutthroat and dolly varden. Within half an hour’s drive is excellent fishing in the Babine, Bear, Bulkley and Skeena Rivers.
Don’t miss the good old days at the annual Pioneer Day celebration on the second Saturday in August.
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.