Site of Canada’s last volcano eruption is in an area of B.C. splendour

Forever changing the course of the Nass River

Part of Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park or Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a in northwestern British Columbia is seen on Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018. The lava beds were created in about 1780, when Canada’s last active volcano, the Tseax, erupted. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Colin Perkel)

The volcanic eruption was as brutal in its ferocity as the famous Vesuvius that buried Pompeii about 2,000 years ago.

But this was in Canada, only 240 years ago, and just as deadly in its impact.

READ MORE: Shuswap earthquake minor compared to 6.0 shaker of 1918

About 2,000 people, one-third of the Nisga’a population, died in two villages in what is now northwestern British Columbia as a result of the Tseax eruption in about 1780. The catastrophe produced enough molten rock to smother the surrounding landscape, sparking raging fires in the lush forests, forever changing the course of the Nass River.

The lava has long solidified into a massive, metres-deep rocky bed. The result of the geological drama that was Canada’s last volcanic eruption is today one more awe-inspiring vista in a province where superlatives ultimately fail.

B.C.’s unsurpassed opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking, biking, swimming, skiing, photography and wildlife spotting make it an internationally recognized destination. But seeking out the lesser-known wilderness of northwestern B.C. while hugging the Yellowhead Highway means discovering enchantment, history and the eye-opening pleasures of vistas imbued with Indigenous culture.

“The draw of British Columbia is nature, wildlife and culture,” said Deklan Corstanje, with the regional district of Kitimat-Stikine in Terrace. “With northwest B.C., we have those things (but) they’re just a little less filtered. It’s a little bit more authentic. Everything is a bit bigger, a bit more raw, a bit more natural. You’re not fighting for space.”

The 179-square-kilometre Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park, or Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a, in the Nass Valley is considered sacred territory. Locals tell the story of tourists who defy entreaties against taking a piece of rock as a souvenir, only to return it when the spirits of the dead complain.

Beyond the lichen-covered lava, the road crosses the Nass by way of a bridge with a totem at each abutment into Gitwinksihlkw or Canyon City, a village settled in the wake of the volcano. In the community, visitors hold their breaths as they walk over the river on a heaving 130-metre suspension bridge, once the only way to enter and exit the village.

Everywhere, soak in an age-old culture expressed through majestic totem poles, interpretative signs, museums and visitor centres that retell both history and legend.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kindness Ninjas spread the love during COVID-19 – and there’s a local connection to the movement

Veronica Carrier, a grade three teacher at BCE, had her class acting as “kindness ninjas” months ago

Cariboo ranchers, lodge operators say Indigenous land title shuts them out

Tsilhqot’in jurisdiction affects grazing, access to private property

B.C. government eyes antlerless moose harvest increase in bid to save caribou

Antlerless moose hunts reduce predation for threatened mountain caribou, says ministry

BC SPCA team helps discover new feline virus after outbreak at Quesnel shelter

Fechavirus is a kind of parvovirus, which makes cats and kittens very sick

COVID-19 highlights lack of connectivity in First Nations communities

Many don’t have access required to utilize online platforms, says First Nations Technology Council

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

Horgan calls for national anti-racism program; will pitch idea to PM, premiers

Premier John Horgan said he’s horrified by the death of George Floyd in the United States

Most Read