Crab River enters Devastation Channel near the entrance to Alan Reach of Gardner Canal, about 81 miles (130 km) southeast of Prince Rupert and 28 miles (45 km) south-southwest of Kitamaat, British Columbia. Devastation Channel lies between Hawkesbury Island and the British Columbia mainland. It was named in 1863 by Captain Daniel Pender after the paddle-sloop HMS Devastation. It was first charted in 1793 by Lieutenant Joseph Whidbey, master of the HMS Discovery during George Vancouver‘s 1791-1795 expedition. The river is named for its reputation as a superior location to get Dungeness crabs at the halfway point when traveling by boat between Kemano and Kitimat. The Haisla name for the river mouth is ‘Kasa’. In the 1880s, a small fish saltery was situated here, and in 1913, a small village was reported. As a result, in 1916, the McKenna-McBride Royal Commission established Haisla Indian Reserve #18 with 10 acres (4 ha) on both sides of the river for use as a village site, fishing station, hunting base, and burial ground. The Crab River watershed comprises a Haisla Eagle clan stewardship area traditionally owned by the holder of the name K’iselagelis. The river starts from an elevation of about 4200 feet (1280 m) and flows generally west for about 6 miles (10 km) to Crab Lake, which is about 5 miles (8 km) long and 0.6 miles (1 km) wide at an elevation of 762 feet (232 m), and then the river continues first northwest and then southwest for 3 miles (5 km) to Gardner Canal. Today, the Crab Lake Conservancy is part of a roadless conservation area of 12,789 ha that protects the lake and the headwaters of the Crab River in the Kitimat Ranges.
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 the Late Miocene exposed the area to the surface and created the present relief of the Coast Mountains. 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 Crab River traditionally demarcated the territorial boundary between the Haisla and Henaaksiala First Nations prior to amalgamation as a single Haisla First Nation. The Henaaksiala are Wakashan-speaking peoples of Gardner Canal, particularly the tributaries of the Kemano and Kitlope Rivers, and have close ethnolinguistic connections to the Haisla. The Haisla homeland encompasses the upper region of Douglas Channel to the Kitimat River and its tributaries. Many ancient sites in these areas bear Henaaksiala or Haisla names in recognition of their value as cultural landmarks such as temporary encampments for resource gathering or processing, winter villages, locations of ceremonial activities or legendary events, or notable natural formations. The Henaaksiala were probably more numerous than the Haisla until about 1918 when an influenza outbreak that started at the end of World War I caused a large drop in population, and they moved en masse to Kitamaat between 1948 and 1952. The present-day Haisla are considered to represent an amalgamation of Henaaksiala and Haisla bands including the Bees, Kaasa, Kemano, Kitlope, Haisla, Nalabila, and Gildalidox. To the west of the Henaaksiala and Haisla territories lies the homeland of the Southern Tsimshian and immediately to the north, those of the Coast Tsimshian. The Salishan-speaking Nuxalk people, or Bella Coola, are located to the south, and to the east are the traditional territories of the Cheslatta T’En, who speak an Athapaskan language. Read more here and here. Explore more of the Crab River and Devastation Channel here: