only Central Coast community in British Columbia with
a highway link to the rest of Canada, Bella Coola
sits at the end of Highway 20 West. It also sits at
the west end of the 'Freedom Highway'.
The Freedom Highway was so named to commemorate Bella
Coola's inclusion with the rest of British Columbia
by road - or by two ruts - as most described it. The
government refused to help build an overland route from
Bella Coola to Anahim Lake where Highway 20 continued
to Williams Lake. Locals got together
with $250, dynamite, equipment and two
years of sheer determination and backbreaking
work to build a road up the rock face of mountains
in the Coast Range. On September 26, 1953, the catskinner
from Bella Coola touched the blade of his cat to that
of the cat driver moving the last of the boulders out
of the way from Anahim Lake above. It still took 10
hours to drive the 90 miles from the port of Bella Coola
to Anahim Lake but it was enough to convince the government
that it could be done, and they took over road improvements
in 1955. It is still an 'interesting' drive and the
steepest highway in Canada with an 18% grade.
Bella Coola is the terminus of the Discovery Coast Ferry
Service, has its own airport and is a major supply area
for delivery of goods and service to the largest community
within the Central Coast. The townsite of about 1000
people offers amenities such as lodging, groceries and
is also the jumping off point for ocean fishing should
you wish to charter a boat out of the harbour.
On the way to the townsite itself, you will go through
several small communities that also offer various amenities.
Hagensborg is the next largest community
in the Valley and is just east of Bella Coola on Highway
20. You will hit blacktop at the foot of the 'Hill'
and find it comfortable driving from there on in. The
entire valley is surrounded on both sides by magnificently
treed mountains sporting beautiful waterfalls. Along
the way, you might wish to stop at the Fisheries
campground along the Atnarko River,
and try your hand at Salmon fishing. There are several
excellent hiking trails in the area and for those who
would just like a short day hike, there's the Kettle
Pond and Burnt Bridge trails. If you would like a long
hike, try Hunlen Falls Trail.
Hunlen Falls is named for the Indian Trapper,
Hana-Lin and is the third highest free falling water
fall in Canada at over 1000 feet. It is at the northern
end of the Turner Lake chain and can be reached by flying
in from Nimpo Lake or hiking 10 miles on the Hunlen
Trail. It starts at the bottom of the Bella Coola hill
at the Atnarko 'tote' road and climbs over 6000 feet.
Make sure to bring your camera with you into the park,
as it isn't at all unusual to have Black Bear,
Grizzly and deer cross your path as you drive
down the highway. Since Bella Coola has the ferry terminus
many people like to take a circle drive when on vacation
in the area. You can follow the highways from Vancouver,
through Williams Lake onto Highway 20 west, right through
the Chilcotin, down into the Bella Coola Valley and
pick up a ferry down the coast back to Victoria or Vancouver.
It just doesn't get any better than that!
the links, and see what the West Chilcotin is really