Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a (Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park) is the first provincial park within the Province of British Columbia established to combine interpretation of natural features and native culture. The park is included in the landmark treaty, the “Nisga’a Final Agreement”, between the Government of Canada and the Nisga’a Nation. Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park is also the first provincial park to be jointly managed by a First Nation and BC Parks.
Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park (17,683 hectares) is located about 60 miles (100 km) north of Terrace in northwest BC, adjacent to New Aiyansh on the Nass Valley Road. Two centuries ago the volcano erupted, killing approximately 2,000 people and creating the pocked lava plain, an eerily moonlike landscape 6 miles (10 km) long and 2 miles (3 km) wide.
As the lava spilled from the crater an estimated 250 years ago, it followed a creek bed downslope to Lava Lake and down the Tseax Valley to the Nass River. The lava travelled at different speeds depending on the steepness of the slope. Some types of lava flow and interesting features include:
Formed by burned out tree trunks leaving holes in the lava.
Formed as the top layer cooled and hardened. The crust insulated the lava flowing inside which eventually flowed out, leaving the crust as the roof and walls of the tube.
Lava that often has a smooth surface or is ropey in form.
Rough and jagged lava.
Large chunks of lava.
This region also contains cinder cones, tree moulds, lava tubes and caves, spatter cones, and Lava Lake. Some lava flow features are very delicate and need protection. Lichens cover the majority of lava flow and a single footprint can set back hundreds of years of growth.
The dramatic landscape blended with the rich native culture makes this park a special experience. The park offers visitors a chance to explore many unique and interesting features of a volcanic landscape and to learn about the culture and legends of the Nisga’a people. The history of the region is tied to legends handed down from past generations. The Nisga’a house system is composed of four main families: Wolf, Raven, Killer Whale, and Eagle. Each family owns stories and passes them on to the next generation.
One of the most well known stories is about the genesis of the volcano. Legend has it that children had shown disrespect to the life-giving salmon by putting stones and burning sticks into their backs and watching them swim. The elders warned the children repeatedly to stop but they did not listen. Soon the ground began to rumble. The volcano and the lava flow then covered the valley bottom, redirected the mighty Nass River and destroyed two villages. This resulted in 2000 Nisga’a people perishing.
Camping: Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park offers 16 vehicle accessible campsites on a first-come, first-served basis – campsite reservations are not accepted. Wilderness or backcountry camping is permitted in the alpine areas, and there are no group campsites available. The park has no sani-station/dump facilities and does not have electrical hook-ups. The campground is open from May to Septemberr – the closing date may be extended depending on the weather. The Nisga’a Visitor Centre will be open from June to September.
Five short interpretive trails, Crater Creek, Beaupre Falls, Tree Mould Trail, Vetter Creek Trail and the Fish Wheel Trail provide easy access to several of the park’s special features. Lava rock may be sharp, unstable and surfaces may be thin especially along lake and stream edges, so explore with care.
Guided volcanic hiking tours offer the park visitor a chance to hike 2 miles (3 km) through a scenic old growth forest and past a variety of volcanic features to a viewpoint on the volcanoe’s cone overlooking the crater. To protect the special features of the area, unguided access to the volcanic cone is prohibited. The hike is rated as moderate with some hills and steep stairs. It is recommended that your vehicle have high clearance to access the starting point of the hike. All hikers must have a reservation prior to hiking and fees are charged. For your own safety and preservation of the park, obey posted signs and keep to designated trails. Shortcutting trails destroys plant life and soil structure, so please stay on the trails.
Canoeing and kayaking are permitted, and a boat launch accessing the Nass River can be found at the park’s north end. A boat launch accessing the Lava Lake can be found at the park’s south end.
Wildlife: When exploring the Nass Mountain Range, you will see moose, goats, marmots, bears and many other species of wildlife. When visiting the Vetter Falls viewpoint, visitors might get a chance to catch a glimpse of a phantom steelhead.
The park has a day-use/picnic area, with some facilities being wheelchair accessible. There is a water pump located at the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park campground, and pit and flush toilets are located throughout the park, but no showers.
Campfire pits are provided at most campgrounds. Limited burning hours may be in effect at some parks and fire bans may be implemented during extremely hot weather conditions. Please Conserve Firewood, and be prepared to bring a portable stove for cooking.
The park Visitor Centre/Ranger Station located near the Nisga’a Park campground is built in traditional Nisga’a longhouse design. Inside you will find interpretive displays and information about Nisga’a culture. There is also a Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park self-guided auto tour brochure. The brochure contains information about Nisga’a legends, points of interest, trails within the park and traveller services.
If you want to circle around the park in your vehicle, take the Nass Forest Service Road to join Hwy 37, and then meet Hwy 16 at Kitwanga. Watch out for logging trucks.
The easiest way to access the Lava Beds is to take Highway 16 from Prince George or Prince Rupert to Terrace, then north for 100 km on the Nisga’a Highway, which is paved for the first 70 km. The alternate 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 leads west to New Aiyansh, a distance of 86 km.
Just outside Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a Provincial Park, there are five communities, four of which are Nisga’a villages; Gitlakdamix (New Aiyansh), Gitwinksihlkw (Canyon City), Lakalzap (Greenville), Kincolith and Nass Camp. All communities are road accessible from the park except for Kincolith, which is located at the mouth of the Nass River and is accessed by aircraft or boat only. Within the communities there are amenities like: grocery stores, bed and breakfasts, restaurants, gift shops, gas stations and health services.
Nearby Regions & Towns