Jesmond Fire Lookout – Part of British Columbia’s History
Just a hop, skip, and a big uphill jump away from Big Bar Lake Provincial Park is a piece of British Columbia’s wildfire history.
Located in BC’s Cariboo region, the Jesmond Fire Lookout, maintained by Recreation Sites and Trails BC, preserves one of the still-remaining historic fire watch towers in British Columbia. From 1972 to 1999 wildfire observers were stationed at the Jesmond Lookout tower for three weeks at a time from early May to late September. The observer lived in the tower and was responsible for detecting and reporting early signs of wildfires. Historically, approximately 12 fires per year were detected from the Jesmond Lookout.
BC has a rich history of fire lookouts. Starting in the early 1900s, men were sent to mountaintops with unobstructed views in order to provide early detection of wildfires. The BC Forest Branch was created in February 1912 and to celebrate 100 years of the BC Forest Service in 2012, the 1957 documentary The Man in the Tower was digitized and shared online (https://youtu.be/U8Pi8CF_NT4) and provides a fascinating look at forest management practices of the time and the day to day tasks and equipment of the fire lookout observer.
The Jesmond Lookout is accessible by a rough 4WD road. When we visited, we were able to drive most of the way up the road in our truck. If I were to do the trip again, I would plan for a much longer hike and park much further down the steep and narrow access road. If you plan on hiking the final six kilometres up the Jesmond Lookout Road, as I would do, you will be climbing just under 800 metres – no small feat! Most of the road is treed, but the final kilometre opens up and the road passes through beautiful open country with spectacular views in all directions.
We visited in late June and it started snowing when we were at the lookout. At an elevation of 1970 metres, it is important to be prepared for unpredictable weather and high winds. Winds over 120 km/h have been recorded at the lookout, and the building itself is tethered to the bedrock with metal cables.
Unfortunately, over the years many of the hundreds of primary fire lookout towers in the province have been vandalized or destroyed. In recent years, increased attention has been given to restoring and protecting these sites, which is certainly a valuable endeavour. Other intact fire towers include the Cornwall Fire Lookout near Ashcroft, the Windy Joe Lookout in Manning Park, the Harrison Fire Lookout on the west side of Harrison Lake, and the Nahatlatch Lookout near Boston Bar. The restoration and maintenance of these sites is made possible by partnerships with groups such as the Four Wheel Drive Association of British Columbia and through countless volunteer hours.
Visiting the Jesmond Fire Lookout is an excellent day trip when camping at Big Bar Lake Provincial Park. The Rec Sites and Trails site offers a picnic table and a pit toilet in addition to the historic fire lookout. The journey to get to the Jesmond Lookout is neither short nor simple, but for those well prepared, the trip is well worth the effort.
See the blog Big Bar Lake Provincial Park in BC’s Cariboo.
For camping accommodations in British Columbia check out the Camping Map.
Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc #explorebc
It’s always a great day to #campinbc
Bowron Lakes, BC: Not Just a Place to Portage!
With its pristine views and rugged adventures, you would think that the Bowron Lakes only attracts highly skilled hikers and paddlers. We found this was not the case! Yes we love hiking, camping and paddling but we had no intention of strapping on a backpack or carrying our canoe. We heard what a beautiful area it was, so we set out to explore it.
The Bowron Lakes are located in central B.C. east of Quesnel in the Cariboo Mountain area. The series of eleven lakes and three rivers are about a half-hour drive north-east of the famous historic town of Barkerville.
The Bowron area has activities for a range of outdoor enthusiasts. The famous Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit offers 116 kms of wilderness canoeing, portaging and camping and takes anywhere from six to ten days to complete. There is also a shorter trip on the west side which takes up to four days. Go to Bowron Lake Reservations for information and reservations for the circuit.
Since we came to camp, kayak, hike and fish with our family, we decided to split our nights between the Bowron Lake Provincial Park and Bowron Lake Lodge and Resort. Both campsites are located at the north and north-west end of Bowron Lake near the start of the circuit.
The provincial park has 25 sites nestled between the trees where we spent our first nights. We then moved over to the Bowron Lake Lodge and Resort where we had a lake-front site with incredible views and easy access to the lake for our kayaks. The resort also has canoes, kayaks and paddle boards to rent if you don’t bring your own.
Close by is the Bear River Mercantile which is well stocked with everything you need from food, souvenirs and camping supplies. It also has some great museum-like historical displays and plenty of local information.
For day trips, we explored the quaint town of Wells which is located about 30 km from Bowron Lakes. Built in the 1930s to accommodate gold miners it once had a population of over 4,000, but now just about 250. In the summer it is a bustling little art-focused town with some well-preserved historic buildings.
Not far down the road is the historic 1860s gold rush town of Barkerville. It has more preserved buildings than you can imagine and live plays with resident actors who entertain along the streets. We had dinner at the Lung Duck Tong Restaurant which was a real hit with our family.
As much as I loved walking along the boardwalks, two of our favourites were the one-room Williams Creek Schoolhouse and the Richfield Courthouse. At the schoolhouse, listen for the teacher ringing the bell and you can join in on a re-enactment of a class lesson. At the courthouse we learned about the notorious Judge Begbie, the “Hanging Judge” whose job was to travel throughout the area maintaining the law.
Back at the campsite we had a chance to explore some of the hiking trails on both sides of the lake, kayaking and fishing on north-west end of Bowron Lake, and enjoying some stunning sunsets. The area offers amazing camping, with friendly people and beautiful scenery. Definitely make this area a destination this summer and I bet you will be planning another trip like we are!
For other camping opportunities in the Bowron Lakes area or elsewhere in BC check out the Camping Map.
Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc
Terrace and the Nass Valley in Northern British Columbia are worth a Visit
I remember visiting Terrace, New Aiyansh and Greenville, in Northern BC years ago. A long drive of about 15 hours from Vancouver, just under 1,400 km and multiple stops I will never forget. My father did his residency program in the smaller towns of both New Aiyansh and Greenville, small towns of no more than 2,000 residents each. Located right on the Skeena River with an abundance of nature, it makes for a great way to escape the city life and find solace in the most remote corners of beautiful British Columbia.
Terrace and the surrounding areas are especially known for spawning grounds for Coho and other varieties of Salmon. The fishery industry here is huge and relies on fresh waters for year-round fly fishing. I remember trying homemade canned, as well as smoked, Coho Salmon, that my father got for us, and it was the most delicious Salmon I’ve ever tasted, mouth-watering and seasoned to perfection.
North of Terrace is the Nass Valley, home to the Nisga’a First Nation. According to the Nisga’a government, the Nisga’a Treaty sets out, “the right of the Nisga’a people to fish throughout 26,838 square kilometers of territory known as the Nass Area. The Nass River is being managed as part of a modern, scientific fishery to provide a sustainable resource for the Nisga’a people today — and for generations to come.” Camping, hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and kayaking are also some of the other outdoor adventures that can be enjoyed in the area. Plus a visit to the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park and Museum in Greenville is well worth exploring.
Many hiking opportunities abound in the area with trails ranging from 2 km to 10 km depending on your fitness level and time. Some of the trails are Howe Creek Trailhead, Grand Trunk Pathway and Terrace Mountain Trailhead that offers a spectacular view once you reach the top. Exstew Falls, just west of Terrace, is a short hike with a stunning waterfall.
There are various camping opportunities in and around Terrace and Camping and RVing BC is a good place to start. Kleanza Creek Provincial Park is located in the valleys of the Coast Mountains overlooking the Skeena River, and based on historical facts was one of the first sites where mining for gold began in the late 1890s.
I have visited Terrace and the surrounding areas a few times and I always like to explore the outdoors and discover something new. Learning about the origins and the history of the city I’m visiting adds another dimension, another layer to what I already know about the people and the place. Specifically, for Terrace, the more popular tourist sites include, George Little House, constructed in the memory of the town’s founder; Heritage Park Museum, where you can explore artifacts dating back to the early 1900s and visualize how life was for the locals at the time; and George Little Park, where the Terrace Art Gallery displays both modern and classical works of local artists. Be sure to check out their website for the most current information and the latest exhibition on display.
Treasure Hunting in British Columbia’s Gold Country
The thrill of a modern treasure hunt comes alive with Geocaching in Gold Country – an area of BC’s interior rich in cultural and geographic diversity. Geocaching combines outdoor recreation, technology, and a good old-fashioned treasure hunt. Location coordinates can be entered into a GPS, or a smartphone app can set you on your way, or you can explore with a lower-tech version of Geocaching called Letterboxing. Your purpose? To visit places of historical, cultural, and geographic significance and bring BC’s past to life.
Gold Country started a Geo-Tourism initiative in 2008, and in 2010 launched a more ambitious project with the publication of their first book, Gold Country GeoTourism Adventures: Field Guide Volume 1. This book details 72 caches – hidden containers containing a log book, some trade items, and collectable stickers unique to each cache – hidden throughout Gold Country. In 2012, a second book, Gold Country GeoTourism Adventures: Field Guide Volume 2 was published, providing another 72 opportunities for exploration.
Gold Country provides a wide variety of terrain to explore and Geocaching helps provide inspiration – whether it is a day trip, a weekend away, or a more extended visit. Each Geocache listed in the Field Guides (or on the Geocaching website www.geocaching.com) is given a score between one and five for both overall difficulty (how challenging it is to find the cache) and terrain difficulty (how challenging it is to access the cache site – think length of hike, steepness, exposure, etc.). Each geocache is also given a unique code, making it easy to search and plan your route.
Gold Country Geocaches range in difficulty from what are referred to as simple “park and grab” style caches to ones that require significant off-road driving and extended uphill hikes. One of the benefits of geocaching in Gold Country is that each cache is located at a point of significance to the area. In fact, in Volume 1, each geocache is sorted into one of five categories: Pioneers & Early Settlers, Geological Wonders, Views & Vistas, Gravesites & Mystical Places, and Historic Churches. In Volume 2, the caches are categorized as Settlers & Pioneers, Geological & Views, Rails & Trails, Feature Film, or Agriculture.
As you travel from cache to cache in Gold Country you can consult your Field Guide, which provides information about the nearest community, parking, and any access information and restrictions. The Field Guides also provide an excellent background description of the cache’s significance. I have learned some truly fascinating history and geology through Gold Country’s caches.
I have had many excellent experiences in Gold Country, but a few of my favourite geocache discoveries are:
- The Cache Creek Mélange: A site of geological wonder that I first visited as part of a university Geology trip. The Cache Creek Mélange exposes the movement of tectonic plates in a way not often visible, accessible, or understood by the average person.
- Lytton Reaction Ferry: This Pioneers & Early Settlers site is fascinating as it provides a great view and history of the Lytton Reaction Ferry. This free ferry (yes, you should definitely take it across the river!) has no motor and instead uses a rudder, a fixed cable, and the current of the river to cross the mighty Fraser with up to two cars and twelve passengers per trip.
- Marble Canyon: Marble Canyon, on Highway 99 between Cache Creek and Lillooet, is a spectacular destination. A provincial park campsite offers a great place to spend the night, the towering limestone and dolomite cliffs are uncommon in BC and offer excellent rock climbing, and the hunt for this geocache takes you on a short hike to the base of an impressive waterfall.
- Logan Lake Shovel: This one is not hard to find, as the Logan Lake Shovel is also the home of the Logan Lake Visitor Centre! The impressive thing about hunting for this cache; however, is the sheer size of the 235-ton ore hauling truck and the enormous bucket on the mining shovel, from which the cache takes its name. Make sure you climb the steps and sit in the shovel’s cab!
- Cornwall Hills Park & Lookout: This is one of my absolute favourite Gold Country geocaches! The Cornwall Hills Park & Lookout requires a 4×4 to get to it, but it is so worth it to make the trek up the gravel road to the 2036 metre summit where an old fire tower provides 360-degree views stretching as far as Mount Baker in Washington state.
Geocaching in Gold Country offers something for everyone, from history buffs to adventure seekers. The Gold Country GeoTourism website offers detailed information for each cache, helping you to plan your journey before setting foot out the door. Just keep in mind that once you are there, a whole new world of possibilities will be opened to you, and you will likely find yourself wishing you had planned to spend more time in Gold Country.
If this blog was of interest to you, check out our suggested drive:
Following the BC Gold Rush Trail through the Cariboo & Beyond
For campgrounds in this area and elsewhere in British Columbia go to the Camping Map.
Share your BC travel and camping photos using hashtag #campinbc, #explorebc
Published: March 16th, 2017
Connect With Us