Kitlope River, Gardner Canal

Kitlope River, Gardner Canal

by | Feb 21, 2021

Kitlope River starts from the Kitimat Ranges and flows generally northwest to the head of Gardner Canal, about 125 miles (202 km) southeast of Prince Rupert and 75 miles (121 km) north of Bella Bella, British Columbia. The Kitlope Valley and the river are named for the Gitlope band that is part of the Haisla First Nation based out of Kitamaat Village. The Kitlope is known to the Haisla as “Hushuwashsdu” or “Source of the milky blue water”. The name is a Tsimshian language reference to the people, who call themselves Henaksiala, and means “people of the rocks” or “people of the opening in the mountains”. 

The Kitlope, including the basins and watersheds of its tributaries, has been the scene of controversy between conservation and resource extraction since the 1970s. In 1994, West Fraser Timber, one of the largest lumber producers in North America, voluntarily relinquished harvesting rights to 784,559 acres (317,500 ha) without compensation. It remains the largest relinquishment of harvesting rights on the continent and encompasses the world’s largest intact coastal temperate rainforest with trees over 800 years old. The Kitlope Valley is an important habitat for marbled murrelets, bald eagles, moose, grizzly, black bear, wolf, and waterfowl.

In consultation with the Haisla First Nation, the provincial government established a protected conservation area around the Kitlope on February 20, 1996. In 2008, it was renamed a Conservancy, reflecting the co-management by BC Parks and the Haisla First Nation. Conservancies in the provincial park system have a lower level of protection than full Provincial Parks, allowing limited economic activities such as eco-tourism, but prohibiting heavy industries such as logging, mining, power generation, and road construction. The conservation initiative was part of a larger effort to protect more of the coastal temperate rainforest, an ecological zone known as the Great Bear Rainforest, that has been heavily logged in the south of the province. Read more here and here. Explore more of Kitlope River here:

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