First Nations & Valley Tours
LEARN OF THE LEGENDS, CEREMONIES AND TRADITIONS OF BELLA COOLA'S FIRST INHABITANTS
Note: First Nations & Valley Tours take place between June 8th and October 15th. While we prioritize spots for our guests participating in the Bella Coola Explorer packages, we occasionally have space for non-guests. If you will not be staying with us and would like to book this tour, please contact our reservations office (note: we cannot accept reservations for non-guests more than 2 weeks out).
**THIS TOUR IS ON HOLD IN 2021 FOR THE TIME BEING - CHECK BACK IN EARLY SUMMER**
We are honoured to be operating on the traditional territory of the Nuxalk First Nation. The Valley Tour is designed as an introduction to local geography and history, including the original inhabitants of the valley, the Nuxalk First Nations people.
Below are some of the points of interest that are possible on this tour. However, it is not possible to do all the activities in one day so please advise your guide of your preferences and interests in order to create the perfect outing.
The Petroglyph Gardens
Perhaps top of the list is the Petroglyph Gardens, which archeologists have estimated to be about 5,000-10,000 years old. After a short walk up the Thorsen Creek drainage, you enter an old-growth forest and after a short climb come to an area in the forest with weathered etchings of human faces, frogs, fish and geometric patterns. Many of the rock carvings are covered in moss and others may be hidden by roots. It's a spiritual place and it should be experienced with a local Nuxalk guide from Copper Sun Journeys.
First Nation Art Galleries
Both the Copper Sun Art Gallery and the Petroglyph Gallery specialize in art from the local Nuxalk First Nations people. There are stunning wooden masks and intricate gold and silver jewelry.
Clayton Falls Recreation Site
The Clayton Falls Recreation Site is one of the most popular sights in the valley and the ideal place to enjoy your picnic lunch. There is a great shoreline with views of the fjord and snowcapped mountains. Watch the boats coming and going and note the old cannery across North Bentinck Arm. Watch for seals that hang out at the mouth of the creek and chase down salmon at high tide. Also of interest is the falls which form a solid apron of cascading water in high flows, while during lower flows narrow streamlets flow over granite scoured smooth by water and glacial action. Pink salmon spawn at the bottom of the falls between late July and September. Look for them attempting to jump up the falls.
Walker Island Park
Walker Island Park has a series of beautiful trails that meander past a beaver pond and through old-growth forests with giant cedar trees, Sitka spruce and cottonwoods. The area is a First Nation sacred site and has been a source of cedar bark, used in ceremonial items and clothing, for millennia. The bark is stripped from the trees in long sections, and, if done right, does not kill the tree. Eventually, the bark grows back, but the more recently harvested trees are clearly visible. Walker Island Park is also home to a variety of wildlife including beavers, ducks, Bald Eagles, bears, foxes and deer.
A visit to a school is not usually on a tourist itinerary, but the Acwsalcta School has a number of works of art including a magnificent totem pole carved by a teacher and three students. It was erected in 2002, the first Nuxalk totem pole to be put up in 38 years.
Burnt Bridge Trail / aka Alexander Mackenzie heritage trail
Segments of this trail are part of the ancient grease trail network, a First Nations trading route from the coastal tribes to the interior tribes. In 1793, it was likely used by Sir Alexander Mackenzie on his historic expedition across Canada, the first crossing of North America by a European north of Mexico. There is a fantastic viewpoint overlooking the beautiful Bella Coola Valley only a short 10-15 minute walk from the parking. After this the trail continues along Burnt Bridge Creek to a small suspension bridge, looping back down to the parking area and can be completed in 1-2 hours. Watch for great views of Stupendous Mountain.
Bella Coola Town Site
A quick stop in the actual town of Bella Coola can also be of interest. There is a museum, shops, and a sushi restaurant. It's home to approximately 800 people.
What to Bring
- Good worn-in hiking shoes. Low or medium cut shoes are suitable for most hikes
- Small backpack for personal gear
- Comfortable pants
- Shirt, fleece or sweater
- Fleece or knitted hat, baseball cap or sun hat
- Thin gloves
- Wind jacket and pants or thin rain gear
- 1-litre water bottle
- Sunscreen and lip balm
- Camera with a large memory card for all those great shots