Adventures in Spatsizi Park

Author: [ xtremepeaks ]  Istvan Hernadi   Contact Author: xtremepeaksSun Feb 22 16:50:02 UTC 2009

Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park is one of Canada's largest parks, located in NW BC 500km north of Smithers. True wilderness atmosphere, outstanding scenery and varied terrain make this park an excellent place for hiking, photography, and nature study. Adjoining Stikine River Provincial Park forms a corridor on both sides of the Stikine River from Spatsizi Plateau & westward along the northern boundary of the park.

T. A. (Tommy) Walker was the first to establish a hunting and fishing camp at Hyland Post and Cold Fish Lake in 1948. "A youthful craving for an outdoor life drove me to forsake the dreary walls of a London office for a rather dubious future in an isolated valley deep in the Coast Range of central BC", wrote Walker in his book "The Spatsizi".

So began Tommy Walker's search for an unaltered wilderness area which first led him to the Bella Coola valley in 1929 and ultimately in 1948 to Spatsizi - land of the Red Goat. Spatsizi is an Indian word meaning red goat, and it is the name of a river in northern BC which winds through the Eaglenest mntns and eddies at the foot of a red slashed peak. High up on the rubble slides of this mountain goats roll, and their hair becomes tinted by the iron oxide in the red sandstone.

Today Walker's original outfitting camp at Cold Fish Lake has been turned into a haven for hikers with 6 cabins and kitchen shelter overlooking the lake provides a comfortable basecamp for explorations of the Plateau. Nancy and I were fortunate enough to have been able to work at this camp as Park Hosts for BC Parks during last September. Our trip started from Tatogga Lake and a 20 minute flight by float plane to the camp, bringing our gear and food for 4 weeks. We had a nice Parks cabin for use during our stay, with a front deck with views of the lake and the EagleNest mountains. Our days were spent with camp chores, greeting visitors and provide park information to them, maintain a park host journal, and some maintenance and cleaning as needed. Otherwise we were free to explore the area, hike the trails, use our boat on the lake and go fishing.

Hiking access to the park is long and complicated, as the trails are remote and often muddy, rough and confusing with many water crossings. Most hikers approach Cold Fish Lake via the Eaglenest trail. Most horseback riders use the McEwan trail. There is also access to the park for paddlers using the Spatsizi river and down to the Stikine River; see BC Parks website for more info.

Most people fly into Cold Fish Lake to stay at the cabins using the float planes of North Pacific Seaplanes based at Tatogga Lake near Iskut, BC - call Dale Leekie (250) 234-3140 ( . Flying in and walking out is one option for groups, as 4 people can usually fit on a float plane. Price for one flight is in the $1000 range. Camping, cabins, groceries and restaurant are available at Tatogga Lake Resort at (250) 234-3526.

Hikers have access to a number of great trails from Cold Fish Lake camp. You can head for the top of the ridge just above the lake on the Spatsizi Plateau trail for the best views. Another peak to climb for different scenery is Black Fox mntn. The trail along Black Fox creek is also scenic and leads to the back of the plateau, and can be used as a loop connecting to Black Fox peak and Bug lake. While Airplane Valley takes you high into a rugged cirque of waterfalls, snow and steep cliffs. The Danahue Pass trail turns away from the Bug lake trail, heading uphill to a wide valley up high above treeline, with good access to interesting climbs to the ridge and high peaks. A trail also follows along the lakeshore towards Mink creek and Hyland Post, this is used by outfitter's horses and will get very muddy and wet after rain. The Gladys lake cabin is far and is tough to reach on foot, best to take a boat to the far end of the lake, and then get on the Gladys lake trail west of Mink creek.

More photos of the area on I used the Salomon Elios mid GTX shoes for all the trails in this area, they worked out well under all conditions for rugged hiking and trail running.

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