Brim River Hot Springs, Gardner Canal

Brim River Hot Springs, Gardner Canal

by | Mar 8, 2022

Brim River Hot Springs and the adjoining Owyacumish River Park are protected areas that conserve 2,488 acres (1,007 ha) of land at the head of Owyacumish Bay on the north shore of Gardner Canal, about 96 miles (155 km) southwest of Prince Rupert and 40 miles (64 km) south-southwest of Kitimat, British Columbia. The name Brim River is thought to have been conferred by Captain Daniel Pender of the Royal Navy, who surveyed the coast of British Columbia aboard HMS Plumper, HMS Hecate, and the Hudson’s Bay Company Beaver from 1857 to 1870. The significance of the name was not recorded. The Haisla name for the river is Uyagemis, meaning ‘facing west’. The Brim River protected area features an undeveloped hot spring and old-growth temperate rainforest covering about 500 acres (202 ha) with no road access or visitor facilities, and the Owyacumish River Park is 1,989 acres (805 ha). The rivers flow through rugged narrow valleys with steep bare rock walls that have numerous waterfalls descending from the snow-capped peaks of the Kitimat Ranges, one of the main subdivisions of the Coast Range in British Columbia, the others being the Pacific Ranges to the south and the Boundary Range to the north. The Kitimat Ranges lie between the Nass River and Portland Inlet to the north and the Bella Coola River and Burke Channel to the south and are bounded on their east by the Hazelton Mountains. The near-vertical cliffs framing the river valleys represent exposed igneous intrusive rocks of the Quottoon pluton, a granodiorite intrusion emplaced at depths between 6-9 miles (9-15 km) about 52 million years ago. The pluton is approximately 112 miles (180 km) long and averages about 6 miles (10 km) in width. The sequence of formation started during the Eocene when partially melted magma agglomerated to the earth’s lower crust leading to a density instability and the uprising of granitic material and emplacement of the Quottoon pluton. A brief period of uplift followed the intrusion resulting in a thermal contrast between the surrounding rock. Another period of uplift beginning in Late Miocene exposed the area to the surface and created the present relief of the Coast Range. In central British Columbia, all major watersheds reflect the interaction of Pleistocene and Holocene glaciation with regional patterns of uplift. The last major glaciation event that covered British Columbia was called the Wisconsinan Fraser glaciation. Climatic alteration began as early as 29,000 years ago but extensive ice advances from mountains into valleys and fjords did not occur until 25,000 years ago. The glacial maximum advance occurred between 16,000-14,000 years ago, and between 13,000-9,000 years ago, the glaciers retreated back to their pre-advance positions, and the land was soon inhabited by humans.

The Brim River and adjacent Owyacumish River are in the traditional territory of the Haisla Blackfish clan. The Haisla First Nation is made up of two historical bands, the Kitamaat of upper Douglas Channel and Devastation Channel and the Kitlope of upper Princess Royal Channel and Gardner Canal. The Kitamaat call themselves Haisla meaning ‘dwellers downriver’, and the Kitlope call themselves Henaaksiala meaning ‘dying off slowly’, a reference to their traditional longevity. Originally there were eight clans each named after an animal that has historical significance to the tribe including Eagle, Beaver, Raven, Crow, Killer Whale or Blackfish, Salmon, Wolf, and Frog. Each clan was composed of family units occupying one or more communal dwellings that housed up to 30 individuals. Clan membership is inherited maternally, with titles and inheritance passing from uncle to nephew instead of the paternal father to son. It is believed that this clan system was inherited from the migration of Tsimshian women as they spread throughout the northern tribes. Each clan has its own unique creation story, in conjunction with the entire tribe’s creation story. Diseases introduced by Europeans decimated the clans. After the 1918 influenza pandemic, the Wolf and Frog clans disappeared entirely, leaving only six clans. It is believed that the Crow clan is nearly extinct and has merged with the Raven clan. The surviving clans united to occupy a common winter village at Kitamaat and cooperated economically and socially, as in the planning and amassing of wealth for the potlatch. Eventually, the whole nation began to occupy the same village, although clan distinctions and linkages remain. Missionaries and government agents believed that certain aspects of traditional culture would prevent the assimilation of Indigenous peoples to Euro-Canadian culture and banned feasts and celebrations. Additionally, traditional communal houses were pulled down and the children were forbidden to speak the Haisla language. In 1876, the Indian Act banned the potlatch, but it was reinstated in 1951. After many decades, a culture has emerged that combines elements of both their traditional heritage and Euro-Canadian culture.

Until the 1960s, parks in British Columbia were primarily thought of as places to showcase the natural splendor of the province. In the 1960s, a new movement began evolving where parks were considered protected areas for conserving natural biodiversity. In the 1970s and 1980s, conservation interests continued to grow along with concerns about land use, particularly forestry practices. At the global level, the World Commission on Environment and Development urged the protection of biodiversity by encouraging the global community to triple the number of protected areas. At the Earth Summit in 1992, Canada signed an accord vowing to meet the challenge of establishing 12% of its land base as protected areas. In 1993, British Columbia took up this challenge and released its Protected Areas Strategy. The policy committed the province to double the amount of protected area from 6% in 1993 to 12% by 2000 following a framework based on ecological representation. New areas for protection were identified through community-based land-use planning that involved industry, environmental groups, First Nations, communities, and government. Land use plans were developed for more than 70% of the province, resulting in the protection of an additional 12.3 million acres (5 million ha). British Columbia was the first province in Canada to achieve the 12% goal. The Owyacumish River was designated as a Provincial Park in 2004, and Brim River Hot Springs was designated as a Protected Area in 2005, following recommendations from the Kalum Land and Resource Management Plan that was established between the Haisla First Nation and the Provincial Government of British Columbia. The plan created management directives for General Resource Management, Resource Management Zones, and Protected Areas that would have a key role in the realization of conservation goals. New protected areas were selected based on ecosystem representation and special features. Ecosystem representation is intended to protect viable examples of the natural biodiversity representative of the major terrestrial, marine, and freshwater ecosystems. Special Features Protection is intended to protect natural, cultural heritage, and recreational features of the province, including rare and endangered species and critical habitats, outstanding or unique botanical, zoological, geological, and paleontological features, outstanding or fragile cultural heritage features, and outstanding outdoor recreational features. Read more here and here. Explore more of Brim River and Gardner Canal here:

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About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2021 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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