The grass-covered hill at Kitwanga was the scene of fierce First Nations tribal battles two centuries ago, resulting in the destruction of the Gitwangak fort and cedar dwellings that once stood to protect the Gitksan people, their fishing sites, and the active trade routes in the region.
This area has nurtured northwest coast native cultures for over 7,000 years, with the Gitksan and Wetsuwet'en peoples always living here, near where the Skeena River meets the Bulkley River. The Skeena River served as an ancient trade route, navigated by 60-foot cedar canoes travelling from the coast upriver to totem-filled villages with magical names like Temlaham, Gitanmax and Kispiox.
Kitwanga is located on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway 37, 4 km (2.5 mi) north of the Yellowhead Highway 16 junction, between Kitwancool and the Gitwangak Indian reserves.
Gitwangak Battle Hill (formerly known as Kitwanga Fort) was a fortified village occupied during the late 1700s and early 1800s by the Gitwangak First Nation. Strategically located on on a small hill above the riverbank, the site afforded excellent vantages up and down the Kitwanga River valley and the adjacent Kitwankul Grease Trail. A famous occupant of the site was warrior 'Nekt who fought to establish control of the network of lucrative trading trails in the Skeena, Kitimat and Nass region of northern British Columbia.
Located in the Nass Range near Kitwanga, this provincial park was established in 1997. After a steep climb to the top, visitors are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the Seven Sisters mountain range. The park also offers wildlife viewing opportunities through various habitats. There are high value grizzly bear habitats in the subalpine as well as good moose habitat. Lower elevation provides excellent migratory bird viewing opportunities.
'Ksan Historical Village and Museum ('Ksan) is located near the ancient village of Gitanmaax, at the confluence of the Bulkley and Skeena Rivers in the community of Hazelton. 'Ksan's museum collection consists of approximately 600 items. Comprised of both ceremonial and utilitarian materials, this collection illustrates the great diversity within the material culture of the Gitxsan. Items include bent boxes, ceremonial masks, button blankets, shaman's regalia, fishing gear, hunting utensils, and assorted lithic artifacts housed in a proper museum facility with environmental controls.
Kitwanga is one of the best places in BC to see authentic totem poles. Now a National Historic site, no less than 50 amazing totems are within an hour's drive from here. Stop in at the Visitor Centre for a map to help you jump start your self-guided tour.
This is excellent steelhead fishing territory. The Kispiox River in particular has been officially recognized as a "trophy river", and if you can't nab a steelhead, chances are you'll reel in a Coho salmon, or one of three types of trout native to the area: rainbow, cutthroat, or Dolly-Varden. Just 30 minutes away are the Babine, Bear, Bulkley, and Skeena Rivers.
The self-guided Hands of History tour follows a 113-kilometre (70-mile) route that loops between Hazelton and Kitwanga. Experience the culture and the history of the Northwest wildnerness.
Nearby Hazelton contains trails for hikers of all experience levels. Trails range from easy family hikes to high alpine adventures for those with more experience. Stroll the boardwalk in New Hazelton. Blue Mountain Trail and Sidina Mountain Trail are longer stretches, reaching into alpine terrain. For a long day's trek, or for overnight backpacking, set out for Moonlit Trail (also called the Kispiox Mountain Trail) on a steady climb through old-growth forest leading to an alpine ridge. A small campsite is set near the top of the ridge.
The Kispiox Valley Rodeo is an annually anticipated event that draws spectators and performers from all across the country for one weekend a year. The rodeo and campgrounds are located right along the banks of the Kispiox River, with the Rodeo arena within minutes of the campsite.
At the end of July, enjoy three days of dazzling music performed by international musicians.
Background Photo Credit: Destination British Columbia