Site of Canada’s last volcano eruption is in an area of B.C. splendour

Forever changing the course of the Nass River

Part of Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park or Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a in northwestern British Columbia is seen on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. The lava beds were created in about 1780, when Canada’s last active volcano, the Tseax, erupted. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel)

The volcanic eruption was as brutal in its ferocity as the famous Vesuvius that buried Pompeii about 2,000 years ago.

But this was in Canada, only 240 years ago, and just as deadly in its impact.

READ MORE: Shuswap earthquake minor compared to 6.0 shaker of 1918

About 2,000 people, one-third of the Nisga’a population, died in two villages in what is now northwestern British Columbia as a result of the Tseax eruption in about 1780. The catastrophe produced enough molten rock to smother the surrounding landscape, sparking raging fires in the lush forests, forever changing the course of the Nass River.

The lava has long solidified into a massive, metres-deep rocky bed. The result of the geological drama that was Canada’s last volcanic eruption is today one more awe-inspiring vista in a province where superlatives ultimately fail.

B.C.’s unsurpassed opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking, biking, swimming, skiing, photography and wildlife spotting make it an internationally recognized destination. But seeking out the lesser-known wilderness of northwestern B.C. while hugging the Yellowhead Highway means discovering enchantment, history and the eye-opening pleasures of vistas imbued with Indigenous culture.

“The draw of British Columbia is nature, wildlife and culture,” said Deklan Corstanje, with the regional district of Kitimat-Stikine in Terrace. “With northwest B.C., we have those things (but) they’re just a little less filtered. It’s a little bit more authentic. Everything is a bit bigger, a bit more raw, a bit more natural. You’re not fighting for space.”

The 179-square-kilometre Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park, or Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a, in the Nass Valley is considered sacred territory. Locals tell the story of tourists who defy entreaties against taking a piece of rock as a souvenir, only to return it when the spirits of the dead complain.

Beyond the lichen-covered lava, the road crosses the Nass by way of a bridge with a totem at each abutment into Gitwinksihlkw or Canyon City, a village settled in the wake of the volcano. In the community, visitors hold their breaths as they walk over the river on a heaving 130-metre suspension bridge, once the only way to enter and exit the village.

Everywhere, soak in an age-old culture expressed through majestic totem poles, interpretative signs, museums and visitor centres that retell both history and legend.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Former Kelowna hockey player dies after battle with ALS

Mitch Wilson was born in Kelowna and was 57 when he died

Toddler sustains serious injuries after falling from Rutland balcony

RCMP are investigating after a two-year-old boy fell from the balcony of an apartment on May 18

Witness says Kelowna man on trial for murder admitted to the killing

Steven Pirko is charged in the killing of Christopher Ausman in 2014

Bus pull returns to Kelowna with record 17 teams

Teams of eight people will pull a BC Transit bus for their community on May 25

Search for missing kayaker turned over to West Kelowna RCMP

A 71-year-old man’s kayak floated ashore on Friday

Killer of Calgary mother, daughter gets no parole for 50 years

A jury found Edward Downey guilty last year in the deaths of Sara Baillie, 34, and five-year-old Taliyah Marsman

Update: Plan to see more smoke from South Okanagan wildfire

Richter Creek wildfire, 12 kilometres west of Osoyoos, is an estimated 400 hectares

Body of missing snowmobiler recovered from Great Slave Lake

Police confirm the body is that of one of three missing snowmobilers

North Okanagan tests out two $10/day childcare sites

Katrine Conroy came to Vernon to tour universal child care prototype sites, including the one at Maven Lane

Penticton sets cap of 14 cannabis stores, removes buffer zone

The city previously relied on a buffer zone and scoring matrix to limit number of stores

Okanagan medical cannabis shop shutting doors

Herb’s Health Centre has been operating without a city business licence for nearly a year

Bucking bulls return to Okanagan raceway Sunday

Bull Riders Canada returns to the South Okanagan with some of the top riders in Canada

Okanagan city to give out fines for sitting on sidewalk

Residents of Penticton will soon be fined for sitting or laying on sidewalks

Cost jumps 35% for Trans-Canada Highway widening in B.C.

Revelstoke-area stretch first awarded under new union deal

Most Read