Iskut, BC to Hyder, AK (Bear Viewing) to Kitimat, BC

Hhhmm…how do I get Don to drive 100 miles, out of our way, to see a bear in the wild??? Whining works…I’ve been talking about this since…hhmm…June?
It’s a beautiful drive from Hwy 37 (Cassiar Hwy) out to Stewart, BC. This is Bear Canyon, just a short part of the road that has steep walls next to the river. The rest of the drive has glaciers and hundreds of waterfalls.
This is Bear Glacier. The info says it used to extend to the side of the canyon we are driving on. It doesn’t say when that was but you can see the old road way up on the side of the canyon above us. Glaciers have a pretty blue/green color because of the air that is compacted inside of them.
Just past Stewart (Canada) you can cross the border, on a gravel road, into Hyder, Alaska. Hyder actually looks like a ghost town to me. Lots of tiny tourist-trap shops line the street as you enter. Most of them were closed. We got there around 3:30pm so I don’t think it was just closed for the day. Anyway, as we got into town, we turned right and followed it past a few opened businesses; Visitor Center, Camp-Run-a-Muck, Guided Tours, etc. We noticed all the campgrounds, from Stewart to Hyder, had signs reading “24-hour Security”. We figured it must mean ‘bear’ security.
Okay, so here’s the “money shot”. Apparently, early morning is the best time for bear-viewing. They said there were several active bears this morning; ‘best day this summer’, said the ranger. They said a couple were arguing over the salmon. We were here for a couple hours, watching chum and pink salmon spawning, until the grizzly showed up. People who are familiar with the bears said they recognized this sow from the mark on her side. They also said she looks fatter than the last time they saw her. She really wasn’t doing a lot of fishing of live salmon. She was mostly looking at all the dead ones. She’d step on the dead fish, if something squirted out, she knew it was ‘fresher’ than others and she’d eat it. You can tell she a grizzly by the hump at her shoulders.
There is a boardwalk, with a gate and railings, to use all the way from the outer parking lot. It didn’t seem like it would be enough to keep bears out but I’m guessing the bears really aren’t here to eat people. They’re here for the fish. You can see how high the railings are in the pic below. You’ve heard of ‘combat fishing’? Well, this is ‘combat bear-viewing’ – hahaha That’s Don’s hand, in the upper right, with the video camera. Cameras ranged from our-size “sport” cameras to the huge lenses on tripods. It was almost as entertaining to watch the people as the bears. This pic is at the end of the boardwalk. It extends maybe 100 yards, from the entrance, along the river. The one bear we saw (above), politely, entered the river close the bridge, which is next to the entrance of the boardwalk. She, slowly, walked downstream, a few hundred feet past the end, then slowly back again. We were standing at the end of the boardwalk when she first appeared at the other end. We saw the commotion of people; picking up their cameras and calling out (in loud whispers) to their friends who had wandered off. The people were all huddled in one spot to get the best photos. As she walked further, you’d hear the pitter-patter of rubber-soled tourist feet on the boardwalk. They’d all pile up in front of her again, then the random clicking of shutters. The only talking, even before the bear showed up, was at a whisper or very quiet. I thought that was neat. We were in the bear’s house and we didn’t want to disturb them; if/when they came back. This boardwalk is high enough for the bears to walk under to get to the other creek behind us. There are a couple spots, on the boardwalk, where you can step up to see over the crowd. That’s where we are to take the below pic (we aren’t standing on the railing). I’m sure the crowds are bigger at different times. It wasn’t too big to be a problem for us today.

But, alas, it’s time to leave the bears. We didn’t want to be too far off-course for tomorrow’s drive, so we drove back out to the Cassiar Hwy to camp. So, this little trip off-the-beaten-path was about 90 miles round-trip. But it was worth it!
We camped at Meziadin (Mezy-AD-in) Lake Provincial Park for $15 (dry camping). Although we got in a little late, we could have had a site on the lake.
As we continued south, on Saturday, we stopped to look at a couple creeks known for salmon spawning areas. These are the sockeyes (red salmon). I think I, mistakenly, identified the ‘red ones with the green heads’ as chinook in an earlier post.

The spectacular scenery just doesn’t stop! We are now driving on Hwy 16 (Yellowhead Hwy). This is the Skeena River. Apparently it is world famous for steelhead fishing! The silvers are in, right now, and there are fishermen where they can get to it.

We turned left at Terrace, to go to the end of Hwy 37; just to say we’d travelled the whole thing! It goes to a little port town called Kitimat. This whole area of BC (not just Kitimat) is known for the rare Kermodei bear. This is a symbol of it at the Visitor’s Center in Kitimat. The Kermodei bear is actually a Black bear but it has white fur. It is not a polar bear. They also call it the Spirit bear. How cool would THAT be to see in the wild!?

There are not too many (appealing) campgrounds in Kitimat, but that’s where we are staying tonight.


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