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The Blackwater River

By Edited May 23, 2014 0 0

The Blackwater River, also known as the West Road River, flows from the Coast Mountain Range of British Columbia east to the Fraser River, which it meets just north of the town of Quesnel.

Its called the West Road River because, in 1793, Alexander Mackenzie followed it west to the height of land at the end of the Chilcotin Plateau en route to Bella Coola.  He became the first white man to cross the North American continent north of Mexico.

He was not the first to use this route to reach the coast, however; he was, in fact, simply following a trade route that had been estabished for centuries, if not for thousands of years.  The First Nations of the Blackwater Valley are still called the Carrier Nation as a result of being engaged in the trace between the coast and the interior.

There are three bridge crossings of the Blackwater: the lowest bridge, at Blackwater, the middle bridge, on the Batnuni Road just below the Blackwater Canyon, and the upper bridge, just west of Nazko.  

You can get to the river by road a few ways.  From the north there are various forestry roads from Prince George and Vanderhoof.  From the east, at Quesnel on the Fraser, there are two roads - one through Nazko and the other, more northerly route, on the Blackwater Road, which goes to the two lower bridges.  Its also possible to reach the upper portions of the river by leaving the Batnuni Road, fording the Euchiniko River and driving on a very rough road to Kluskoil Lake.  Driving west from Williams Lake on Highway 20 allows access on rough roads through Anahim Lake to Salmon River Reserve, and there is also access to the upper portion through Vanderhoof.  I can't stress enough, however, how difficult these latter routes are.

Air access to the portion of the river from Eliguk through to the Euchiniko Lakes is traditional.  Most of the planes leave from Nimpo Lake, but they will pick up passengers closer to the valley, at sites like Pelican Lake.  It is possible to fly in this way, land on quiet parts of the river or on a lake, unload a canoe and spend anywhere from two weeks  to a few days paddling and fishing the river.

This part of British Columbia is very wild, and boasts moose, mule and whitetail deer, grizzly and black bears, caribou, eagles, ospreys, wolves, coyotes, foxes, beavers, otters, white pelicans, and porcupines, and countless birds. Fishing is excellent. 

Much of the area is also used for range cattle, which can turn up anywhere.  I wouldn't be surpised if there were wild or feral horses as well. 

This is a great area to visit at anytime, but if you're lucky perhaps the best time is September through to early October. The weather can be sunny, yet cold enough at night to be bracing and to kill all mosquitos.  Leaves on the trees are beginning to turn, fishing is dynamite, and moose season is open.  However, its just as possible to get snow at that time of year, so be prepared. 

I first visited the Blackwater in 1968, as a small boy.  We camped by the upper bridge and canoed the river twice each day.  In those days we caught literally hundreds of fish, and because we kept them all we had to build a smoker.  In later years I caught just as many fish, but on the fly, with barbless hooks, and so only kept what we planned to eat that day. I've also fished the river for rainbows while spawning salmon swam between my legs (which  is also when I've seen Grizzlies on the river). 

I remember seeing my first spawning  Sockeye on the Blackwater - bright red fish with parrot green heads - and Golden eagles, which are truly impressive, being just a bit bigger than Bald eagles (Baldies run riot in the Blackwater, just like Coastal BC). 




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