Skeena River

Skeena River

[skee-nuh]

The Skeena River is the second longest river entirely in British Columbia, Canada. The Skeena is an important transportation artery, particularly for the Tsimshian and the Gitxsan - whose names mean "inside the Skeena River" and "people of the Skeena River" respectively, and also during the Omineca Gold Rush when steamboat services ran from the sea to Hazelton, at the confluence of the Skeena's largest tributary, the Bulkley, which was the jumping-off point for the trails to the goldfields. The river and its basin sustain a wide variety of fish, wildlife and vegetation.

Geography

The Skeena originates south of the Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Provincial Park in north western British Columbia, forming a divide with the Klappan River, a tributary of the Stikine River. It flows for before it empties into Chatham Sound and Ogden Channel , East of Hecate Strait of the Pacific Ocean. The Skeena drains of land with a normal annual runoff of 2,157 m3/s or 1190 mm..

Course

The Skeena River originates at the southern end of Spatsizi Plateau, in a valley between Mount Gunanoot and Mount Thule, south of the Stikine River watershed. An abandoned track of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway runs along the river in its upper course. It flows south-east, between the shallow peaks of the Skeena Mountains, through the McEvoy and Jackson Flats. It continues in this direction until it passes the Slamgeesh Range, then flows westwards to Fourth Cabin, when it turns south through a shallow canyon below Poison Mountain. After Kuldo it takes an eastward turn, then flows again south below Cutoff Mountain and Mount Pope. It continues through rolling hills to the community of Kispiox and then Hazelton, where it receives the waters of Morice-Bulkley River, and turns south-west. The Yellowhead Highway and a Canadian National Railway track follow the course of the Skeena on this section. At Kitseguecla, the river is crossed by Highway 37, and then turns south around the Seven Sisters Peaks and Bulkley Ranges, through the Skeena Provincial Forest, then between the Nass Ranges and Borden Glacier, past the ferry crossing at Usk, through the Kitselas Canyon, and then through the Kleanza Creek Provincial Park. It then flows south-west through the city of Terrace, where the river widens. It continues westwards, followed by the Highway 16 and Canadian National Railway line, passes near the Exchamsiks River Provincial Park, then flows into the Hecate Strait at Eleanor Passage, between Port Edward and Port Essington, facing De Horsey Island.

Tributaries

Partial listing from Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Upper Skeena

Middle Skeena

Lower Skeena

Wildlife

The Skeena supports a wide variety of fish and wildlife. The British Columbia Ministry of the Environment, through BC Parks, has designated a number of Ecological Reserves along the course of the river.

Fish

The Skeena is well-known for its sport fishing, most notably salmon and steelhead (which are considered distinct from salmon -- see Salmon#True Salmon). The Skeena is also very important to the commercial fishing industry. For example, numbering 5 million spawning salmon a year, the Skeena is second only to the Fraser River in Canada in its capacity to produce sockeye salmon.

The following types of pacific salmon can be found in the Skeena:

  • Chinook salmon, sometimes known as King, Tyee, Spring, Quinnat, Tule, or Blackmouth salmon.
  • Chum salmon, sometimes known as Dog or Calico salmon.
  • Coho salmon, sometimes known as Silver salmon.
  • Pink salmon, sometimes known as Humpback salmon.
  • Sockeye salmon, sometimes known as Red salmon or Blueback salmon.

Bears

The rare Kermode bear lives in and near the Skeena Valley from Prince Rupert to Hazelton. The region is also home to many black bears and brown bears. Grizzly bears are less common in the area but the Khutzeymateen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary is located nearby.

History

Fur trading

The Hudson's Bay Company's local headquarters were at Port Simpson, although Port Essington was also used extensively as a port for its sternwheelers.

Riverboats

While canoes played a crucial role on the Skeena for centuries, the age of the steamboat heralded a new era of boating on the Skeena. The first steam-powered vessel to enter the Skeena was the Union in 1864. In 1866 the Mumford attempted to ascend the river but was only able to reach the Kitsumkalum River. It was not until 1891 that the Hudson's Bay Company sternwheeler the Caledonia successfully negotiated through the Kitselas Canyon and reached Hazelton. A number of other steamers were built around the turn of the century, in part due to the growing fish industry and the gold rush.

See also

Footnotes

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