Tweedsmuir Provincial Park, the largest in British Columbia, covers an area of more than 981,000 hectares in the west-central region of the province, 480 kilometres by air northwest of Vancouver, BC. Roughly triangular in shape, the park is bounded on the north and northwest by the Ootsa-Whitesail Lakes reservoir, on the west and southwest by the Coast Mountains and on the east by the interior plateau.
Tweedsmuir Provincial Park was named for the 15th Governor General of Canada, John Buchan, Baron Tweedsmuir of Elsfield. The Governor General travelled extensively by float plane and horseback in the park in August of 1937, and he and his party were greatly impressed by its magnificence. "I have now travelled over most of Canada and have seen many wonderful things, but I have seen nothing more beautiful and more wonderful than the great park which British Columbia has done the great honour to call by my name."
Alexander MacKenzie travelled through the area on his epic journey to the Pacific Ocean in 1793. Alexander MacKenzie was the first white man to view the western seas from the shores of northwest America, preceding the more widely known Lewis and Clark expedition by more than 12 years. Alexander MacKenzie and his party trekked overland from the Fraser River, across the Interior Plateau, through the Rainbow Mountains and down Burnt Bridge Creek, the present day western boundary for part of the park. Where the creek enters the Bella Coola River, they rested at a community which they dubbed "Friendly Village" because of the hospitality of its native inhabitants, members of the Bella Coola. From here MacKenzie and his men were transported down the river by the Bella Coolas into Dean Channel. Hostile Bella Bella natives forced them back before they reached the open sea.
In his journal he wrote: "I now mixed up some vermillion in melted grease, and inscribed in large characters on the face of the rock on which we slept last night, this brief memorial: 'Alexander MacKenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-second of July, one thousand, seven hundred and ninety-three.' "
MacKenzie's rock, on the north shore of Dean Channel, is marked with a cairn and preserved in Sir Alexander MacKenzie Provincial Park.
Thousands of years before MacKenzie came to the area it was the home of the Bella Coola and Chilcotin Indians who depended on the abundance of salmon in the rivers for their livelihood. Today, decendants of these earliest inhabitants catch and process fish from the same rivers for their winter use in much the same way as did their ancestors.
The topography of the area is extremely varied. East of the park near Anahim Lake, the Interior Plateau abruptly gives way, at an elevation of about 1350 metres, to the peaks of the Rainbow Range. The range - Tsitsutl in the local dialect, meaning painted mountains - is an enormous dome of eroded lava and fragmented rock that presents to the viewer and astonishing spectrum of reds, oranges, yellows, and lavenders.
Contrasting with the vivid colouration and gentler slopes of the Rainbow Range are the higher and more rugged Coast Mountains that mark the western extremity of the park. Vast glaciers sculptured these granite giants, leaving behind serrated peaks still under the erosive attack of alpine ice. Tzeetsaytsul Paeks - so named by the Indians for the rumble and boom of its glacier - and its neighbour, Thunder Mountain, are dominant features of the parks west boundary. Monarch Mountain, 3533 m, at the southwest corner of the park, is the highest mountain in the area. Further evidence of the glacial activity of the past along the park's west side are the deep valleys of the Bella Coola and Atnarko Rivers and ocean fjords like Dean Channel.
The alpine and grass meadows north of Highway 20 are the habitat of grizzly and black bears, mountain goats, caribou and wolves and the summer range of moose and mule deer. In the more mountainous area south of the highway are goats, bears, mule and coastal blacktail deer, many smaller species and the occasional moose. South of the highway also, is the greatest variety of birdlife in the park including the magnificent trumpeter swans that winter in Lonesome Lake.
Lonesome Lake has become well known through the publication of books and stories about Ralph Edwards who settled at the lake not long after the turn of the century, many years before the park was created. The struggle of the Edwards family to wrest a homestead from this wilderness has made their story a classic of Canadian pioneering spirit.
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