The world’s largest intact coastal rain forest is protected in the Kitlope Heritage Conservancy (Huchsduwachsdu Nuyem Jees). The park covers a 793,000-acre (321,120-hectare) valley, the ancestral home of the Haisla Nation, and includes stands of old-growth trees that are more than 800 years old.
Known to the Haisla as “Hushuwashsdu” or “Source of the milky blue water”, the Kitlope area is a focus of native lore and native stories such as “The Man Who Turned to Stone”. The Kitlope Valley also has a significant number of archaeological sites. The Haisla have used the Kitlope area for the harvesting of plants, animals and fish including salmon and oolichan.
Three rivers, the Gamsby, Tezwa, and Tsaytis, feed into the Kitlope River, which then enters the head of the sinuous Gardner Canal. Drooping stands of western hemlock interspersed with Douglas fir cloak the domed mountains.
Fishing is goods for trout, char and salmon, and paddling, canoeing and kayaking is posible at the park, with good paddling on Kitlope Lake and the Tezwa River. There are no developed trails in the park. Visitors should be self-sufficient, properly equipped, and should be experienced in wilderness surviva. Visitors should bring their own drinking water as potable water is not available in the park.
Wilderness, backcountry or walk-in camping is allowed, but no facilities are provided. All campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Campsite locations:
Hill/Amos campsite, east side of Kitlope Lake: Lat 53º 07.687′ N; Long 127º 46.717′ W
Rediscovery campsite, east side of Kitlope Lake: Lat 53º 06.305′ N; Long 127º 46.412′ W
The Kemano Cabin is available year round on a first-come, first-served basis on the north bank of the Kitlope River, about 4 km upstream from the Tsaytis River. It sleeps 4 people and has a pit toilet. The cabin is free of charge and reservations are not accepted. The Kemano Cabin is located at Latitude 53º 12.865′ N; Longitude. 127º 50.636′ W. Note that the BC Parks/Watchmen cabin on the south side of the Kitlope River is not available for public use or camping.
Wildlife viewing is a major attraction in the Kitlope Heritage Conservancy (Huchsduwachsdu Nuyem Jees). Grizzly and black bears, moose, mountain goats, caribou, and a wide range of birds are found throughout the Kitlope, including bald eagles and murrelets. A variety of waterfowl and birds can also be found throughout the Kitlope watershed. All five species of pacific salmon, herring, and oolichan spawn throughout the many rivers and creeks.
A trip to the Kitlope often begins from the river estuary at Douglas Channel, which is reached by boat or air, and then you can backpack through the forest to the alpine regions above.
Summers here are often as wet as winters, so don’t let weather influence your plans. One of the rewards of approaching by water is stopping at the Wewanie and Shearwater natural hot springs in Douglas Channel. Shearwater’s hot springs are considered by some to be the best hot springs on the north coast of BC.
Kitamaat Village Council provides on-site Haisla First Nations co-management of the Kitlope from approximately April to October. The area is monitored by a group of Watchmen (similar to park wardens) based in the Kitlope. For more information, contact the Watchmen at the Na Na Kila Institute, 250-632-3308, in Kitimaat Village. Kitlope is jointly managed by BC Parks and the Haisla Nation.
Kitlope Heritage Conservancy is located at the head of the Gardner Canal, on British Columbia’s central coast, approximately 31 miles (50 km) northwest of Bella Coola and 75 miles (120 km) southeast of the town of Kitimat. It takes a few hours to travel to the Kitlope by boat from Kitimat to the head of the Gardner Canal. The best time to visit the area is in July and August, when the marine conditions and the weather are at their season best. Visitors arriving in larger vessels can anchor just outside the estuary area (deeper water) and then take a smaller boat (jet boats are best) up the Kitlope River to Kitlope Lake. There are no roads in this wilderness park.
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