Triumph Bay, Gardner Canal

Triumph Bay, Gardner Canal

by | Mar 17, 2022

Triumph Bay is a deglaciated fjord that extends south from the Alan Reach of Gardner Canal into the Kitimat Ranges of the Coast Mountains and forms an estuary at the mouth of the Triumph River, about 89 miles (143 km) southeast of Prince Rupert and 42 miles (68 km) south of Kitimat, British Columbia. Triumph Bay is named after the British trading sloop Triumph, that in 1874, was employed by the government of Canada to take James Richardson of the Geological Survey of Canada to Gardner Canal to assist Marcus Smith, deputy engineer of Canadian Pacific Railway, in the general examination of the inlet when the coastline of British Columbia was being surveyed for selecting a suitable terminus for the transcontinental railway. The Hudson’s Bay Company steamer Otter, which was placed at the disposal of Marcus Smith, departed from Victoria and met Triumph with Richardson at anchor in the bay. The sloop was towed by the Otter to Kemano Bay, where the geological and survey parties landed and where the vessels awaited their return. The Coast Mountains are a major mountain range in the Pacific Coast Ranges extending from southwestern Yukon through Southeast Alaska and virtually all of the British Columbia coast south to the Fraser River. The Coast Mountains consist of an amalgamation of deformed igneous and metamorphosed pre-Tertiary terranes that originated from diverse locations. The Kitimat Ranges are one of the three main subdivisions of the Coast Mountains with the others being the Pacific Ranges to the south and the Boundary Ranges 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 to the east by the Hazelton Mountains and to the west by the north coastal archipelago. The Kitimat Ranges includes the ancestral homeland of the Haisla people who mostly reside in the present-day village of Kitamaat at the head of Douglas Channel.

The Haisla are a group of indigenous people that have inhabited the North Coast region of British Columbia for at least 9,000 years. Today, the Haisla people are an amalgamation of two bands, the Kitamaat people of upper Douglas Channel and Devastation Channel and the Kitlope people of upper Princess Royal Channel and Gardner Canal. Gardner Canal is one of the principal inlets of the British Columbia Coast. The embayment is a side-inlet of the larger Douglas Channel, and about 56 miles (90 km) long so that when combined with the Douglas Channel, the total length is 200 miles (320 km) making it one of the largest fjord-complexes in the world. The entrance to Gardner Canal is hidden behind Hawkesbury Island and is accessed via Devastation Channel or Varney Passage which form the northeast and southeast flanks of that island. The canal was named in 1793 by George Vancouver in honor of his friend and former commander, Alan Gardner. Lieutenant Joseph Whidbey was the first to survey the wild and rugged scenery of Gardner Canal with small boats from the HMS Discovery. Whidbey re­ported to Vancouver “that the face of the country was almost an entirely barren waste nearly destitute of wood and verdure, and presenting to the eye one rude mass of almost naked rocks, rising into rugged mountains, more lofty than any he had before seen, whose towering summits seeming to overhang their bases, gave them a tremendous appearance”. The head of Gardner Canal generally freezes over in winter. The surveying party of the Canadian Pacific Railway examined the inlet as a potential terminus for the line in February 1876 and found ice 8-18 inches (20-46 cm) thick extending 25 miles (40 km) down the inlet, which was not open for navigation until April, and the site was summarily rejected.

The Triumph River drains a watershed of 25,946 acres (10,500 ha) originating from a series of cirque lakes at an elevation of 2,595 feet (791 m) in the Coast Mountains and flows generally north for 8 miles (13 km) to Triumph Lake which is 1.6 miles (2.6 km) long, and then flows another 1.2 miles (2 km) to a waterfall and then into Triumph Bay. The valley is wide throughout its lower reaches, becoming steeper inland of Triumph Lake. The watershed has been subjected to extensive timber clear-cutting and recent landslides are evident on the steeper logged slopes. Landslides are a common natural process in the mountainous terrain of British Columbia and are exacerbated by heavy precipitation, logging, and road building that destabilize soils, particularly on steep slopes. In the coastal temperate rainforests, many landslides occur in clear-cuts, often as a result of root decay following logging. The probability of landslides increases by a factor of 10-35 over natural rates following logging. Increases of this magnitude can adversely affect stream morphology, fish habitat, water quality, and fish egg and fry survival. Pacific salmon are not present in the Triumph River due to the waterfall near the river mouth that forms a migration barrier, however, steelhead trout are found in the river above the waterfalls where sport fishing is restricted to catch and release due to management concerns. The steelhead is an ocean-going predatory fish with a typical lifespan of four to six years. All wild steelhead hatch in gravel-bottomed, fast-flowing, well-oxygenated rivers and streams. Some stay in freshwater all their lives and are called rainbow trout. Steelhead trout that migrate to the ocean typically grow larger than the ones that stay in freshwater. Steelhead predominantly feed on zooplankton when they are young and then transition to eating molluscs, such as squid, and other fish such as capelin and herring. Rainbow trout and steelhead represent two divergent ecotypes that are genetically identical but separated by life-history strategies, with steelhead having the capacity to migrate to the open ocean and then return to their natal stream on multiple occasions. Habitat degradation and overfishing are the main threat to steelhead and other anadromous fish populations. Habitat degradation includes riparian vegetation removal, sedimentation, altered instream flows, water quality degradation, instream wood removal, and poor estuarine habitats. Read more here and here. Explore more of Triumph Bay 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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