Weather, Wildlife and Scenery Abounds
The biggest secret about British Columbia is the weather. There is a tremendous range in the type and severity of weather across the province. The west coast experiences wet winters and dry summers with generally moderate temperatures. East of the mountains, the province gets much more severe winter weather and greater temperature extremes. The variation is amazing in that the area around Osoyoos, in the southern interior, gets under 10 inches of rainfall per year while Tofino, on the west coast gets 127 inches. Interior towns may see low temperatures of -40 degrees. West coast towns seldom go below 0F/-17C.
BC is a very large province. In fact, it is larger than Texas. This is very surprising to most people. To top it off, the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec are even larger than BC. Despite the very large size of the province, the land is incredibly barren. Great mountains loom up in all parts of the province. In most areas of the province, there is a distinct lack of population. In fact, only the extreme south western portion of the mainland and the south east portion of Vancouver Island have large metropolitan areas. There are many thousands of square miles in BC which do not have settlements. The entire west coast of Vancouver Island, over 300 miles long, is home to very few people. Those that do live on the rugged coast are concentrated in a few small towns or scattered in very remote villages.
Remote villages and sparse population is the norm for the mainland of Vancouver Island, north of Vancouver. The Sunshine Coast has some populated areas but nothing like around Vancouver. North and west of Powell River is incredibly barren. There are no mainland settlements, except for scattered outposts from Lund, (near Powell River), to Kitimat, a distance of over 500 miles. This coastline is punctuated by deep fjords that sometimes stretch into the wilderness for 50 miles or more. An incredible number of islands are found on the BC coast as well. Most, as can be expected, are uninhabited. Those that do have settlements are few.
Remoteness of the BC coast is nearly absolute. While Vancouver Island has a highway running along most of the east coast of the island from Victoria to Port Hardy, hundreds of miles, the road along the mainland goes from Vancouver to Lund, a distance of barely 100 miles. North of Lund, there are simply no roads of any kind. Travel in the area is only possible by boat or float plane. Most of the remote settlements are not serviced by regular ferry routes. Instead, residents must arrange transport of goods through private shippers or use their own boats to reach stores.
BC is home to a great many species of wildlife. Being a province with a large land mass, there are many animals inhabiting BC, but there is a vast number of marine life as well. Grizzly, black and Kermode bears live near the coastline. The Kermode is pure white but is unrelated to Polar bears. Other big game in the province include elk, deer and mountain sheep. In order to preserve wildlife refuge areas, many parks have been established in BC. These are administrated by all levels of government. Local parks offer various green spaces within urban areas. Large provincial parks can be found throughout BC. The federal government has established several large National parks as well. Together, these parks reserve hundreds of thousands of acres of protected lands for the enjoyment of people and for animal habitat.
BC enjoys a unique marine position in Canada. It is the only province to border the Pacific Ocean. Because of this, BC has a robust trade with other Pacific countries including China, Japan and other Asian countries. There are major ports in Vancouver and Prince Rupert devoted to imports and exports by sea. Because of the historical interaction between BC and Asia, a large number of immigrants from the Far East have settled in the province. Many current residents, in fact, are second, third or fourth generations removed from their Asian homelands. These people regard Canada and BC as their home even as the acknowledge the important connections they have to Asia. BC was greatly assisted in its transformation from a desolate wilderness by Chinese, Japanese and other Asian immigrants who arrived in the 1800 and 1900's. Many BC cities and towns boast that they have distinct Asian neighborhoods as a result.
There are a great number of fishing opportunities in British Columbia. Some sports fish taken in the province have been truly spectacular trophies. A 92 pound Chinook salmon was caught in the Skeena River. This river regularly produces Chinook salmon of 30, 40 and more pounds. Anglers enjoy fly fishing this remote stretch of water. Perhaps the best fly rod available to sportsmen is the Skeena Series example made by RST Fishing. They construct a top quality unit that is capable of withstanding the strength of the largest Chinook salmon. They also make casting and mooching rods in the series.
BC is the only Canadian province which borders Alaska, although the Yukon territory does as well. Back in the 1940's a large road building project was primarily accomplished by the US Corps of Army Engineers that linked Alaska to the rest of North America. The Alaska Highway was constructed through the vast Northern BC wilderness. Stretching across the extreme northern edge of BC, the highway allowed for increased shipments of munitions and personnel to Alaska. This route was needed to establish a safe channel to Alaska, marine traffic having been declared at risk from enemy ships. Today, the Alaska Highway remains a vital land based link to the state. In addition to goods, many tourists travel the highway, especially in the summer months.
BC is also a major gateway to Alaska via the province's marine waterways. Vessels can travel from Seattle or Vancouver to Alaska via the inland waterway. This is a series of straits and passages which are protected from the savage onslaught of the Pacific Ocean surf. Vessels are able to sail many hundreds of miles in relative safety and comfort, protected by the expanse of Vancouver Island and hundreds of other islands. Travel is still risky at times but experienced skippers ply the waterway time after time with little trouble. Except for a short exposed stretch just north of Vancouver Island, the waterway is very protected from severe waves.
It is on the inland waterway where most cruise ships travel. Departing from Seattle or Vancouver, these ships travel the protected channels on the way north. Along the way, they pass the rugged and remote areas of the BC mainland. Passengers often see whales, porpoises, seals and other marine mammals along the way. There are also innumerable birds on the trip. At all times, the unspoiled natural scenery is totally evident.
BC holds many secrets, known only to residents and those who visit the remote areas of the province. Without question, this province is the home of the most diversity in all of Canada.