Saturday, April 30, 2016, was our first full day in British Columbia, Canada. We are currently camped in Hope, B.C. on the banks of the Fraser River. After we arrived on Friday, we stopped at the Visitors Center in downtown Hope. Brian, the manager at the center, gave us heaps of good ideas on places to go and things to do in the area. Our first order of business - exploring the Fraser River Canyon.
As it turns out, this weekend is the opening weekend for the Hell's Gate Airtram. You can ride a gondola over the most treacherous section of the Fraser River, known as Hells Gate. Hells Gate is an abrupt narrowing of the Fraser River in the southern Fraser Canyon. The towering rock walls of the Fraser River plunge toward each other forcing the waters through a passage only 115 feet wide. Here we are ready for our ride.
We are almost 1,000 feet above the river when we begin our decent into Hells Gate.
The name Hells Gate was derived from the journal of explorer Simon Fraser, who in 1808 described this narrow passage as "a place where no human should venture, for surely these are the gates of Hell."
The rapids were so loud, we almost missed the Canadian National train passing though a tunnel in the side of the cliff.
We walked back and forth across the pedestrian bridge to get a closer look at the rapids. All this adventuring builds up a powerful hunger. We couldn't resist the salmon chowder being served in the restaurant.
Before riding the tram back up to the parking lot, we enjoyed a few short documentaries, including one called, "Run, Sockeye, Run." It was cute, campy and full of lots of information about the Fraser River and the life and times of sockeye salmon.
Our next stop in our exploration of Fraser Canyon was at Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park. This small (only 136 acre) park is centered on the site of the original Cariboo Wagon Road bridge over the Fraser River. The road was built to reach the gold fields in the Cariboo region. Here's our first look at the old bridge.
As we walked out on the bridge, we could see the snow covered peaks of the Coast Mountains.
The Fraser River separates the Cascades from the Coast Mountains. Here is Kathy standing between two mountain ranges.
The original Alexandra Bridge of the Cariboo Road was built in 1863, but was destroyed by the rising waters of the Fraser Flood of 1894. After World War I, the dawn of the automotive era saw a reinvestment in roads in British Columbia, including the re-opening of the Fraser Canyon to road traffic in the form of the new Cariboo Highway in the 1920s, and a new suspension bridge was built upon the footings of the original in 1926 (with a deck level ten feet higher than the previous design). This second Alexandra Suspension Bridge ceased to be used for automobile traffic in 1964. It now stands as a historic reminder of a by-gone era.
Dave couldn't resist a chance to scamper down to the river's edge.
After Kathy filled her pockets with shiny rocks, we took one last photo of the bridge over the river Fraser.
Our last stop, was the historic town of Yale. The town was founded in 1848 by the Hudson's Bay Company as Fort Yale. In its heyday, at the peak of the gold rush, it was reputed to be the largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco. It also earned epithets such as "the wickedest little settlement in British Columbia" and "a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah" of vice, violence and lawlessness. Sounds like our kind of place! Unfortunately, one of the few remaining buildings is the church.
In addition to an interesting museum with a fascinating documentary about cultural conflicts between Gold Rush miners and First Nations peoples, the Yale Historic Site also recreates a ‘Tent City’ replicating the early days of the 1858 Fraser River Gold Rush. You can even pan for gold. Here Kathy shows off her nuggets!
The drive up and down the Fraser River canyon is very dramatic. We'll get a chance to explore the Fraser River further upstream, as well as its confluence with the Thompson River, when we move to Cache Creek. Until then, we have lots more exploring to do! Stay tuned.