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Driving around in BC is very easy, being accommodated by superb highways cutting through mountains and deserts and crossing mighty rivers in single bounds. However, the original explorers into the region faced a very different environment being able to penetrate the thick forests and high mountains only by following the course of the rivers cutting through them. One particular site brings the difficulties these early travellers faced into clear perspective. The site named Hell's Gate by the 19th century explorer Simon Fraser, sits on Route 1 - The Trans-Canada Highway - just 20 miles north of the town of Hope. The First Nations used Hell's Gate for an annual congregation point where they could harvest migrating fish and traded furs. Indeed with thick forests and shear mountains on each side, this single point on the river presented shear granite cliffs on both sides of the river and a raging torrent beneath. In fact although the river is only around 35 meters wide at this point, they claim that it has the same water flow as the whole of Niagara Falls. However, during the construction of a trans-continental railway line in 1924, a massive rock slide blocked much of the river which devastated salmon fishing as the salmon could no longer get up river to return to their spawning grounds. The blockage was eventually cleared but the damage to the fishing industry is still being repaired. Despite the difficulties of the route, Hell's gate became a fixed point on what was to become the Cariboo Road, which gave gold miners access to the north.
Entering Hell's Gate from the roadway we traversed the river by cable car. However, the original travellers would had to drive pitons into the rock face as they made their way past using ropes and rough wooden bridges. Instead, we enjoyed the facilities of a terrific tourist attraction showing the history of Hell's Gate and some of the stories that surround it.
As with all things Canadian - an excellent visit and well worth the time and effort to get there.
Stanley Park University of British Columbia Down Town, Gas Town and China Town Granville Island Space Centre Queen Elizabeth Park Whistler Lillooet Rattle Snake Crossing Hells Gate Canada 2012
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