Taking the Cassiar Highway is an alternative to part of the Alaska Highway(AH) north. It heads north to the west of the AH, from the community of Kitwanga on the Yellowhead Highway, to a point just west of Watson Lake on the Alaska Highway. The smooth bitumen road meanders alongside rivers and lakes and through pine and aspen forests.
Our first quick stop was at Gitanyow, a small first nation community known for its totem poles. The largest concentration of standing totem poles in northwestern British Columbia and much taller than we had seen to date.
We were pretty happy to see a couple more roadside bears along here, but they weren’t keen to hang around for a photo shoot!
Our first night’s destination was the town of Stewart. No prizes for guessing who chose this! Anyway, it was a fabulous drive along the Stewart-Hyder Access Road, a 60km detour from the Cassiar Highway past Bear River, Bear Glacier and you guessed it…Bear Lake to the town of Stewart, only accessible by sea or air until the mid-1970s.
Stewart is in BC and Hyder is in Alaska, the only thing that separates them is a border crossing.
We stayed 2 nights at Stewart and spent a day over the border in Alaska where we visited Fish Creek Wildlife Observation Area with hopes of seeing bears catching salmon. Alas, the salmon were yet to arrive at this point of the river, hence, no bears either. Later in the day we did enjoy watching a small black bear on the side of the road who appeared to play hide and seek with us.
A slow drive along at times a narrow dirt road to Salmon Glacier was well worth the effort. Viewing a glacier from above is a real treat and Salmon Glacier emerges from the ice-field in the distance and winds its way down the valley in spectacular fashion. Salmon Glacier is one of the largest in North America. We enjoyed it all the more as there were just a handful of cars, so plenty of space to enjoy the view.
Back in the town of Stewart, we enjoyed a morning in the very pretty and interesting main street and visited the Stewart town Museum, learning about its rich mining history.
Heading north along the Cassiar, we took another detour to Telegraph Creek. The 120km road was dirt and wound through thickly wooded areas, along fire ravaged ridges and eventually to the hamlet of Telegraph Creek. A great drive but in hindsight, perhaps we should have considered the impact of the 2018 bushfires we had heard about on the views we might be expecting. The scenery must have been stunning when it was green, but the devastation of the fire was everywhere to see.
After a beautiful lakeside camp, we were heading north again, stopping at Jade City. Actually Jade City is a shop selling lots of jade items as well as other artifacts and rock related products. The jade cutting and slicing, carving and polishing workshop is mostly outdoors and extends along the road for 50 metres or so and makes an interesting stop.
Further up the road and a stop at Boya Lake with a walk through the bush to a beaver dam where we get a first hand look at the engineering skills of these clever little fellas!