August 30, 2009 | Tips from Travellers >
Bella Coola, Historic & Heritage Sites
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While attending the 73rd Annual Anahim Lake Stampede, as members of the group who had ridden horseback from Titetown Lake, led by Dale and Yvonne Dunn of the Blackwater Spruce Ranch, four of our number decided to take advantage of our proximity to visit Bella Coola. As students of the history of the Cariboo Chilcotin region know, Bella Coola played a major role in the early development of the area. All manner of goods, from foodstuffs, to cookstoves, to farm machinery, were brought in to Bella Coola by boat and packed inland by horse and mule. When they established the Frontier Cattle Company in 1937, Rich Hobson and Pan Phillips made extensive use of this route to supply their ranch needs. Anyone who has driven down "The Hill" into Bella Coola will appreciate just what a daunting undertaking it must have been to lead a heavily laden pack string up from the coast onto the interior plateau; anyone who hasn't should avail themselves of the earliest possible opportunity of doing so. What is equally amazing is the history of the construction of the "Freedom Road" from Bella Coola inland. Undertaken by the citizens of Bella Coola, it was only taken over by the provincial government after its completion in the late-1950s, a task which provincial engineers had predicted could not be accomplished. As one wanders around Bella Coola, the history of the area comes alive, and a good place for any visitor to start is the Bella Coola Museum. Located in one of the first permanent dwellings built by white settlers to the area, its construction obviously borrowing heavily from the Scandinavian maritime tradition, the museum houses an impressive collection of artifacts and covers the the whole period from prehistoric to modern times. An interesting sidebar to our trip was a visit to the Bella Coola United Church. The grandfather of one of our number was the resident preacher at this church around 1927. During his tenure, the church was located on the opposite side of the river to its present location. Due to chronic flooding on that side of the river, the townsite was moved across the river in 1929 and the church was floated across during the move. Lunch and a tall thick milkshake rounded out our visit, and we made it back to Anahim Lake in time to enjoy the afternoon's events.