With a wide range of ecosystems, the landscapes around Lytton are a study in geological contrasts.
Here valley bottom ponderosa pine and bunch grass climb the mountainsides, through wet and dry coniferous forests to alpine meadows and high ice-clad peaks.
Mountains Surrounding Lytton
Look more closely, and even the mountains are distinctly different. To the west they are the igneous and metamorphic Coast Mountains and to the east they are sedimentary formations reminiscent of the Rocky Mountains.
The result are mineral-rich coloured cliffs and sights like hardened pillars of silt called hoodoos while below ground treasures include fossils, crystals, agates and gold, albeit long ago mined by lucky prospectors.
Wildlife around Lytton
And as might be expected, such ecological richness sees diverse fish and wildlife populations including salmon, black bears, big horn sheep, elk as well as a broad range of birds and plant life.
The Fraser Canyon was formed during the Miocene period (23.7-5.3 million years ago) by the river cutting into the uplifting Interior Plateau and following a fault line south. The Fraser Canyon waters extend 270km/170mi from the confluence of the Chilcotin River in the Cariboo to just north of Yale.
Fraser River Trade
From here, the river is navigable and hence, the 26km/16mi stretch down to Hope became an important transportation route for First Nations, gold prospectors and for constructing the railway.
Within the Fraser Canyon are numerous tributaries such as the Coquihalla and Chilcotin rivers, as well as several sub canyons named in their own right: There's Little Canyon between Yale and Spuzzum; Black Canyon between Spuzzum and Boston Bar – said to reference the colour of the rocks when it rains, and Hells Gate Canyon where the rocky walls rise about 1,000m/3,300ft above the rapids.
This is deepest and narrowest point on the Fraser River where every minute more than 760 million litres/200 million gallons of water surge through an opening of only 110ft/33m wide at speeds of up to 32kmph/20mph.
The Fraser is the third longest river in Canada. With its headwaters in the Yellowhead Pass near Mount Robson, its waters are thick with silt and glacial run-off, a quality that becomes all the more evident at Lytton. Here, the Fraser meets clear blue waters of its largest tributary, the Thompson River, and as the Thompson waters double the Fraser River's volume, its addition can be distinguished for nearly a kilometer downstream from the confluence.
First Nations Fishing Methods
The Fraser is also the largest salmon producing river in the world with many millions of fish returning each year to spawn. Although the canyon's topography is inhospitable to most fishermen, First Nations still used their traditional methods. They cast nets from precarious rock faces, and dry their catch in the winds that breeze down the canyon tunnel.
From its headwaters in the Rocky Mountains, The Fraser River flows for approximately 1,375km/870m, into the Pacific Ocean just south of Vancouver.
Climate & Weather
As Highway 1 climbs to an elevation of 258m/846ft, canyon temperatures can vary as much as ten degrees from Hope to Lytton where as self-proclaimed Canada's hottest spot, the thermometer often sizzles above 40°C/104°F.
Usually, summer highs average 29°C/85°F largely because the canyon is in the rain shadow of the Coast Mountains which tempers the heat and makes for mild winters that might dip as low as -2.3°C/28°F. Annual rainfall is on the low side at 32cm/13in, and while the valley bottom lands are one of the few places in Canada where the prospect of snow is very limited, higher elevations can expect an annual snowfall of 125cm/49in.