The history of access to the Nemiah Valley
Until 1973 there was no road access to the Nemiah Valley.
This biggest surprise is that Nemiah is inaccessible rather than remote. Physically, it lies less than 200 kilometers northwest of Vancouver, but with the Coast Mountains looming in between, the only road access from BC's largest city is through the Pemberton Valley or up the Fraser Canyon to Williams Lake and then west into the mountains. Figure eight or 10 hours by car, but preferably truck. This is not a nice road. For most of the last 100 kilometers, it is not even up to the standard demanded by the Ministry of Forests for logging roads. You bounce and slide and pray (pointlessly, it turns out) that you don't get a flat tire. But the most important thing about the road is that until 1973, it didn't exist at all. While that made life difficult then, today the road brings new problems as well as opportunities which the Xeni Gwet'in hope to maximize.
Henry Solomon was the Xeni Gwet'in chief in 1973 and he remembers the wrenching effort required to get the road finished. The project was started by an entrepreneur trying to improve transportation to a nearby fishing lodge. He ran out of money, however, leaving the Xeni Gwet'in scrambling for resources to finish the job. Solomon and band members lobbied the federal government for aid and support until, finally, the Army Corps of Engineers stepped into the breach. Life changed overnight, Solomon says in his native Tsilhqot'in, his daughter translating. "Before, no one wanted to help the Indian. We never got welfare or anything and we had to make our own money," he said.
Earning a living in this isolated valley was no easy feat. The Nemiah ran cattle and trapped through the winter, gardening and fishing in the finer months. Once a year, they hitched up their horses, loaded the wagons and journeyed into Williams Lake, driving cattle for sale and buying seeds and dry goods for the coming year. The trip took a week, one way.
As you enter the Nemiah Valley, the first small lake near the Xene Gwetin ( pronounced "honey gweteen") village is Konni Lake. It has a good population of Rainbow trout and Dolly Varden char. The mountains in the background ar on the far side of Chilko Lake and rise to nearly 9000 feet.
- Road Trip
Many of the lakes in this area have a population of beautiful trumpeter swans. They hang around even in winter in areas of open water on the lake and river.
Down The Stream The Swans All Glide
Down the stream the swans all glide;
It's quite the cheapest way to ride.
Their legs get wet,
Their tummies wetter:
I think after all
The bus is better.
- Skiing and Boarding
The back road between Chilko and Tsuniah Lake
This 32km stretch of road can sometimes be impassable in wet weather or during spring breakup. But to the adventurous, its worthwhile. It more or less skirts the eastern shore of Chilko Lake and passes through magnificent old growth forest of Douglas fir. Some of the wet spots near Tsuniah have been gravelled over and are now in good shape since this photo was taken.
4 Wheel drive vehicles are recommended. I was able to drive my Subaru through here with no problems and have done it several times.
In the summer of 2007 I drove my Jeep Cherokee through here and never put it in 4-wheel drive. There are 4 small streams to ford as well.
- Road Trip
Alpine meadows and wildflowers
The Chilcotin mountains is blessed with a huge expanse of upland meadows where, for a brief time in summer, they become awash with colour. Lupines, Indian paintbrush and Mountain Valerian add to the palette of colour and fragrance.
- Horse Riding
The ubiquitous bald eagle can be seen just about everywhere. They come here in fall to feed on the thousands of dying salmon. I've had them dive into the lake beside my canoe while I've been fishing.