On a terrace overlooking the Stikine River, one can step back in time in the beautiful little community of Telegraph Creek, which gets its name from an overland telegraph line to Yukon, the assembly of which started in 1866.
The project was stopped when the first Trans-Atlantic submarine cable was laid, then started again during the Klondike Gold Rush. The cable was finished in 1901, and abandoned in 1936, when wireless radio killed it. Though the Yukon Telegraph Trail is mostly overgrown over to the south of Telegraph Creek, a 265-km stretch still survives between Telegraph Creek and Atlin, and is open to the serious backpacker.
The fascinating modern history of the Dease Lake and Telegraph Creek area dates back to the 1860s and 1870s, with the Stikine and Cassiar Gold Rushes, and the Yukon Gold Rush era in the late 1890s. Telegraph Creek witnessed the discovery of gold by prospectors on the Stikine River in the 1860s, and was the head of navigation for paddlewheelers during the plans for the Collins Overland Telegraph Cable.
The Stikine region of Northern British Columbia is the traditional territory of the Tahltan people, going back as far as 10,000 years. The Tahltan people used obsidian from the Mount Edziza volcanic complex to make tools and weapons for trading material. Telegraph Creek is the only permanent settlement on the Stikine River and is home to members of the Tahltan First Nation and non-native residents. Cultural significance is retained through the ongoing presence of the Tahltan First Nation and its connection to the land and cultural traditions. Dry Town was an area of Tahltan settlement, originally used as a winter home away from the more remote summer fishing camps. First Nations residents value and continue to practice traditional ways, teaching children and grandchildren their inheritance of skills, languages, and an appreciation of the Stikine River and its valley.
Many restored buildings date back a century or more, including the original Hudson’s Bay Company Store, which is now a cafe, general store and lodge, and many deserted historic buildings can be found in the town itself.
Location: Telegraph Creek is located off the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy 37 in northwest British Columbia. Access to Telegraph Creek is from the town of Dease Lake on Highway 37 making for an interesting side trip when travelling the Stewart-Cassiar Hwy. Probably the most remote town in BC assessible by road, Telegraph Creek is reached via a rough Forest Service road that runs southwest from Dease Lake, passing through the Stikine River Provincial Park and skirting the Grand Canyon of the Stikine River. The road to Telegraph Creek is beautiful but rough, with 112 km (69 miles) of gravel, steep gradients (up to 20%), narrow passages along canyon walls with no guardrails, and sharp-angled switchbacks. The road should be driven with caution and awareness, but is suitable for most vehicles. The road passes through Telegraph Creek to end in Glenora, another gold rush boomtown in its heyday. The community of Telegraph Creek can also be reached by air and by the Stikine River from Alaska.
Gold Rush Days: Stroll the streets of Telegraph Creek and conjure up the images, sights and sounds of the paddlewheelers arriving in town with precious supplies, weary passengers and boisterous prospectors heading for gold in the Klondike.
River Boating is one of the best ways to enjoy the Stikine River. River Tour operators based in Telegraph Creek arrange travel on the Stikine River in boats for an afternoon, a single overnight trip, or longer trips of several days to the Lower River and beyond to Wrangell or Petersburg in Alaska. These experienced guides operate under a special use permit from the USDA Forest Service; Tongass National Forest.
Short River boat tours on the Stikine River run from Telegraph Creek to the Glenora/Hudson Bay Flats area and back to Telegraph Creek. Water levels permitting, the trip continues two miles above Telegraph Creek to the entrance of the Grand Canyon of the Stikine.
Half-day tours travel 35 miles down river to the confluence of the Chutine River and Jackson’s Landing. Full-day tours navigate 65 miles down river, through the Little Canyon into the heart of the Coast Mountains. This infrequently travelled wilderness is the land of glaciers and braided river channels.
Paddlers wishing to paddle the Stikine River can put in at Telegraph Creek, below the Grand Canyon of the Stikine, and kayak down to Stikine on the Alaska border, or continue on to Wrangell in Alaska, where adventurers can take the Alaska Ferry service south to Prince Rupert. The latest customs policy prohibits the local float plane company from flying canoe parties back to BC from Wrangell, and US floatplanes cannot tie canoes on. Paddlers can arrange floatplane pickup on the BC side of the border, or jet boat charter backhaul from either the border or Wrangell. The United States now requires all persons crossing the BC/Alaska border to go into Wrangell to clear US Customs.
Camping: Organized camping is rather sparse in the great wilderness of the northwest. Allen Lake Forest Service recreation Site is a medium-sized campground located next to the town of Dease Lake. A few miles downriver from Telegraph Creek is a trio of Forest Service Recreation Sites on the banks of the Stikine: Glenora, Winter Creek and Dodjatin Creek. Together, these provide more than 40 vehicle campsites on the banks of this spectacular river.
Mount Edziza Provincial Park: Horseback and floatplane are the two most common modes of transportation into Mount Edziza Provincial Park, but you can also hike in. Mowdade Lake Trail leads 24 km from the trailhead at Kinaskan Lake Provincial Park, but you’ll need a boat to cross the Iskut River at the trailhead. Further north, at Iskut, the Klastline River Trail follows the Klastline River to Buckley Lake. From here, the trail hooks up with the Buckley Lake Trail that leads into the park from Telegraph Creek. A trail runs from Mowdade Lake west to Coffee Crater, and then north, where it hooks up with the Buckley Lake Trail, though trail is perhaps too strong a word, as these are unmarked, uncleared, undeveloped…well, routes. From Mowdade Lake to Buckley Lake is approximately 60 km. Expect to take six to seven days to backpack in. Only experienced backcountry travellers should attempt these routes without an experienced guide.
Stikine River Provincial Park is a narrow park straddling the Stikine River and linking Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park and Mount Edziza Provincial Park. The Stikine River Provincial Park is home to hundreds of animal species including moose, grizzly and black bears, wolves, beavers, hoary marmots, and a variety of birds. At last count, the Grand Canyon of the Stikine, is home to more than 360 mountain goats which use the sheer canyon walls as effective protection from all natural predators.
Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Provincial Park is the second-largest park in BC, at over 650,000 hectares. To get there, turn east off Hwy 37 onto the Ealue Lake Road at Tatogga Lake. Follow the road for 22 km, crossing the Klappan River, where it intersects the BC Rail Grade. The grade parallels the southwestern boundary of the park for 112 km, and is rough but driveable for most vehicles. From here, the park must be accessed by foot, horseback, or canoe. The two trails that lead into the park, the McEwan Creek Trail and the Eaglenest Creek Trail, follow well-marked routes and connect to a number of other trails. There are over 160 kms of trails in the park, with an old outfitter’s cabin available for public use at Cold Fish Lake.
Tahltan First Nation: High on the riverbank above the confluence of the Tahltan and Stikine Rivers stands the Church and cabins of the Tahltan First Nations people, watching over their traditional territories.
The road to Telegraph Creek is incomparably beautiful; about 150 kms of gravel, steep gradients (up to 20 percent), narrow passages along canyon walls, and sharply angled switchbacks. The road is not suitable for trailers, which can be left in Dease Lake. Check in Dease Lake for the current road conditions to Telegraph Creek.
Dease Lake is situated on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway 37 at the junction with the road to Telegraph Creek. The town of Dease Lake was first established as a Hudson’s Bay trading post in 1838, and was once part of a major transportation route into the north for traders and trappers.
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.