Situated amidst a majestic landscape dominated by the 3000-foot walls of the rugged Rocher de Boule Mountain Range, New Hazelton is a wonderful stop on 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.
From 1886 to 1913, nearby Hazelton was the upriver terminus for a fleet of sternwheelers which plied the wild rapids of the Skeena, bringing people and supplies to the nearby mines, farms and settlements. In 1914, a transcontinental railway was pushed down the Skeena Valley, bringing thousands of construction workers and homesteaders. New Hazelton and South Hazelton were established as commercial centres on the busy railway.
After 1914, the Hazeltons area stabilized into a rural region of 14 small Native and pioneer communities, all of which have maintained the unique charm of their historic beginnings.
A visit to the Hazeltons today is a journey into the historic Heartland of northwest British Columbia.
‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum: A “must see” in nearby 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 that lived 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 the nearby authentic frontier community of Hazelton 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.
Totem Pole: 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.
Riverboat Trips: 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.
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.
Camping: Camp in the fully serviced RV campground in the grounds of the ‘Ksan Historical Village in Hazelton, a convenient and popular stop for visitors to the Hazeltons.
The power of the Bulkley River is displayed at the Moricetown Falls, where the rushing river has created falls in the canyon. The white cascading water combined with the carved rock of the canyon walls make for an incredible sight. During the salmon season, July and August, you can watch the Wetsuwet’en First Nations people use traditional gaffing techniques to fish for their food.
Winter is a great time to visit Smithers – Nordic skiing on Hudson Bay Mountain offers endless miles of tranquil trails just waiting to be discovered. Hudson Bay Mountain Resort offers plenty of light, dry powder for downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing. Ski and snowboard rentals are available.
Skiing & Winter Activities in the North West.
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.