Mt. Nusatsum

Mt. Nusatsum

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Five Highways to the Pacific Again!


After 17 days of being cut off from the interior of BC and the rest of the province, the Bella Coola Valley is hooked up again!  Highway 20 reopened at 4 PM tonight  (twice a day, escorted convoy each way for now).  What a lot of work has gone into achieving that feat in those 17 days, some good people put in long days to make that happen.

Highway 20 is important obviously to those of us who live here, but there is another view you could take about the Freedom Road.  If you look at a map of British Columbia you quickly realize there are only five ways to drive to the Pacific Ocean.  In the south Highways #1 through the Fraser Valley and #99 through Whistler are pretty well known.  In the north Highway #16, the Yellowhead gets you through some impressive country into Prince Rupert and an offshoot at Terrace, Highway #37 gets you to Kitimat.  A long way south of those highways and a long way north of the southern highways is the legendary Freedom Road, Highway 20 winding it's way to the coast through a vast inaccessible region of the BC Coast.

Highway 20 is an important transportation corridor for the province, even though when you drive it you might think it's not much of a 'highway'.  The basic route it takes has been in use a long time by First Nations and early explorers, with the last 50 km on the Bella Coola end being the route Alexander Mackenzie took on his great journey across Canada from Montreal in 1793.  Lieutenant Palmer was sent to survey a route from Bella Coola to the goldfields of the Cariboo in 1862 as well.   It's more than just a road for people in Bella Coola to get out to civilization, it's important to the regional economy and the province in general. It's a piece of our provinces history and once you've driven it, from the moment you cross the Fraser River near Williams Lake and start climbing and pop up into the eastern Chilcotin at Beecher's Prairie, you will know why it is so famous.  Highway 20 makes it possible to access a very remote part of the coast which would otherwise be even more costly to work and recreate in if it was only air or water access. It's a lifeline and supports fishing, forestry and growing tourism industries.
 
While Highway 20 was closed for 17 days, and was hard on businesses and residents in the Central Coast and the Chilcotin, life carried on in Bella Coola.  Merchants figured out a way to get stuff in on barges, a few people got in on ferries, and Pacific Coastal Airlines and Bella Coola Air and other airlines provided safe and reliable service for people that had to move. We are all glad to see it open so more normal can return the the Bella Coola Valley after the Great Flood of 2010.  Do yourself a favour and plan a trip to Bella Coola next summer - you won't regret it.   

On the weather situation - rain most of the day has been the order of the day, sometimes a little bit heavy, but not sustained heavy.  The big windstorm which the Skeena area got missed us luckily. Grizzly

2 comments:

  1. Track ongoing changes for Hwy 20 at http://www.th.gov.bc/highway20

    ReplyDelete