In the Bella Coola Valley of western British Columbia, at a place called Stuie, rests the relaxing Tweedsmuir Park Lodge. For many years aboriginals came here to fish and hunt and declared it a nice place to rest. It certainly is that.
While relaxing may have been on the minds of the aboriginals, we wanted to see and do things. We wanted to see the great grizzly bears that come down from the mountains to eat the salmon going up the river to spawn. The lodge owners erected a
viewing stand where you can safely watch
the bears at work getting their food. When the bears are active, they put on quite a display, as they run and splash in the river to startle the salmon and then plunge their great heads into the water, usually coming up with a wiggling tasty fish.
We also wanted to get out on the river in one of their neat boats to do a river drift.
The great thing about a river drift boat is that the seats are padded, and comfortable. Another good thing, is that you don’t have to drive, either. A skilled oarsman makes sure we get downstream carefully, and as well, he tells us about the river, the salmon, the mountains, and the huge pile of debris along the river in places.
Apparently, heavy floods last year floated trees, roots and all, down into the main river where they actually jammed it. River people
are still cutting tree trunks and letting
them float away to open the channel. The water was low when we took our drift and we had to edge our way over some submerged trunks and shallow, gravel shoals.
The ambiance was terrific during our trip. In the distance the solid walls of the mountains pushed upward to penetrate the blue sky. On some of the taller peaks great glaciers stuck to the face of the mountain, and in other places huge cirque glaciers
were busy creating future majestic amphitheatres. On the water duck families acted as if we were not there and paddled right across our bow. They also seemed oblivious of the bald eagles resting on nearby branches, or swooping low over the water.
The eagles were waiting for the salmon. We were told that when the eagles start to arrive, the salmon won’t be far behind.
In fact, my wife Sylvia was the first to see
a small group working up stream. Our guide told us, a few today, many bunches tomorrow, and a river of fish by the weekend.
Sadly, we did not see any grizzly bears on this trip. We were perhaps a week too early. No salmon, no grizzlies!
The Tweedsmuir’s river drift is a chance to meet nature on her own terms. It’s relaxing, and that’s what the Tweedsmuir Lodge is all about.
For more than four decades James Stoness has travelled the roads of North America, photographing and writing about what he has seen. His travel articles and beautiful pictures have been published in several magazines and newspapers. He is also the author of five western novels. Visit his website at: www.stonesstravelguides.com