When you think of British Columbia, there are certain highlights that might come to mind first: the mountains, the ocean, vibrant nightlife, wonderful food, rich Indigenous culture, outdoor adventure, a wide array of wildlife… but volcanic activity and lava beds might not be the first things you associate with this province.
However, all you need to do is travel about an hour north of Terrace, and that’s exactly what you’ll find.
The Nass River valley area of BC is home to the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park and is believed to be the site of Canada’s most recent volcanic eruption and lava flow. The eruption occurred around 1700, destroying two villages of the Nisga’a people and killing about 2,000 people.
The eruption came from the Tseax Cone (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tseax_Cone), located east of Crater Creek, southeast of Gitlakdamix and 60 kilometres north of Terrace. The volcano sits in a valley near the Tseax River, about 20 kilometres south of the river’s junction with Nass River. The Tseax Cone is one of the most accessible volcanic centres in the province.
The Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park is about 179 square kilometres in size. It was established in April 1992, expanded in 1995, and came to include the Nisga’a Treaty in 2000. This is the first park in BC to be jointly managed by the government and a First Nation.
Visiting the Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Provincial Park is an experience like no other. In some spots, the lava bed rises as much as 12 metres above the roadway. The park is home to waterfalls; pools; cinder cones; lava tubes; a lava-dammed lake, aptly named Lava Lake; caves; natural hot spring; and several other features created by past lava flows. There is also a myriad of animals to be seen while venturing through the park.
Once you enter the park, you can stop at the Nisga’a Visitor Centre for a self-guided tour map. There are 19 stops on your tour, including the hot springs, lava beds and the four Nisga’a First Nations villages in the area: Canyon City, New Aiyansh, Greenville and Gingolx. (In Gingolx, be sure to try the seafood. You’ll rave about it long after you’ve gone back home!)
For a look into the history and culture of the area, visitors will want to stop at the Nisga’a Museum in Laxgalts’ap (Greenville), set in a traditional longhouse.
There are also guided tours you can go on, including a hiking tour, a botanical tour and a fish wheel tour. These trips are guided by local Nisga’a people, and the tours start and end in Terrace.
Northern BC is a place like no other. And if you’re looking for the adventure of a lifetime, a volcanic tour should do the trick. Be sure to bring your camera, and your walking shoes!
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