In remote Northern British Columbia there is a place surrounded by valleys, mountains, creeks, waterfalls, aqua-coloured pools, and an awe-inspiring lava bed that takes your breath away. This is the Nass Valley, the heart of Nisga’a territory and home to five communities, four of which are Nisga’a villages.
The village names are Gitlakdamix (New Aiyansh), Gitwinksihlkw (Canyon City), Lakalzap (Greenville), Gingolx (Kincolith), and Nass Camp. The Nass Valley holds many undiscovered wonders of nature and history. A dramatic landscape blended with the rich Nisga’a culture makes the Nass Valley a truly unique experience. Discover the splendor of the Nisga’a villages, cultural centres, traditional practices and natural surroundings. Explore volcanic landscapes, uncover rare botanical wonders and learn about the culture and legends of the Nisga’a people.
In 2000, the Nisga’a celebrated a landmark event; the signing of the Nisga’a Treaty, the first modern day treaty in BC. The Nisga’a Lisims Government operates out of the village of New Aiyansh.
The Nass Valley communities provide amenities that include grocery stores, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, gift shops, gas stations, and health services.
Location: The Nass Valley is located north of Terrace in Northern British Columbia. Access to Nass Valley is via Yellowhead Highway 16 to Terrace, then north for 100 km on the Nisga’a Highway 113, which is paved to the end in the Village of Gingolx (Kincolith). The alternative route is through Kitwanga on Highway 16. From Kitwanga, head north for 78 km on paved Highway 37 to the Cranberry River. Here the unpaved Nass Forest Service Road (Cranberry Connector) leads west to New Aiyansh, a distance of 56 km. Arrivals by bus will meet at the Kwinitsa Foreman’s Residence and be transported to the Nass by bus.
Gitlakdamix (New Aiyansh)
Located in the heart of the Nass Valley, this is the administrative centre of the Nisga’a Lisims Government. There are many beautiful buildings to visit in this village of 1,200 people, including the historic Gitlakdamix community hall, which has a stunning mural painted on it. The New Aiyansh Recreation Centre, completed in 1998, has four totem poles in its lobby and is located right next door to the arts and cultural centre, where you might be lucky enough to find local carvers working on various projects. Guided tours of these beautifully built government buildings are available on request. In front of the Nisga’a Elementary/Secondary School you’ll find the Unity Pole – raised in 1977, it was the first totem pole raised in the Nass Valley since the late 1800s.
Gitwinksihlkw (Canyon City)
Gitwinksihlkw is located on the north bank of the Nass River, across from the Nisga’a Lava Bed Memorial Park, approximately 100 km northwest of Terrace. Gitwinksihlkw is Nisga’a for “Place of the Lizards” which refers to the large lizards that are believed to have inhabited this area before a volcanic eruption roughly 270 years ago.
The Gitwinksihlkw totem poles are a must-see when visiting this village. There are four 25-foot tall poles at the new vehicle bridge, each representing a different animal crest of the Nisga’a people: eagle, raven, wolf and killer whale. There is also the elementary school totem pole that stands 60 feet high and represents elders teaching the children. At the top is a supernatural bird, which is said to have stopped the flow of the volcano when it erupted. The Bear’s Den pole is located at the village recreation centre. It stands 55 feet high and represents the history of Gitwinksihlkw. You also won’t want to miss the 400-foot suspension bridge.
This small community of 800 people is one of the four villages of the Nisga’a Nation. Laxgalts’ap means “the dwelling place comprised of dwelling places”. When visiting Lakalzap you might want to make a stop at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church – the largest Anglican Church building on the BC mainland outside of Vancouver. Lakalzap is home to a youth centre and recreation centre.
Located on the Nass River, Gingolx was only accessible by water or by air until 2003, when a 29-kilometre stretch of highway was built linking it to Laxgalts’ap. The road links the people of Gingolx with the rest of the Nass Valley and has paved the way for this tiny coastal village to become a stunning tourist destination. The gorgeous vistas on the drive to Gingolx leave visitors absolutely breathless. Check out the village’s many totem poles, or take a visit to Kincolith’s Christ Church to see some of its incredible stained glass windows. Gingolx is also called the Seafood Capital of the Nass Valley because of its easy access to the river and the ocean.
The spectacular Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park is located adjacent to New Aiyansh on the Nass Valley Road. Two centuries ago the volcano erupted, killing approximately 2,000 Nisga’a people. The pocked lava plain, 10 km long and 3 km wide, is an eerily moonlike landscape. A fascinating feature of the park is the 100m high cinder cone where the eruption began, destroying the villages, filling the lakes, and forever changing the course of the Nass River. Guided hikes take visitors up to the lava cone, after which you can learn about the history of the Nisga’a people in the park’s visitor centre, built in the traditional Nisga’a longhouse design.
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.