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5-0877-Potato-Range-Horseback
Horseback riding in the Potato Range
(Albert Normandin photo)

Nimpo Lake

Culture & History

The culture and history of Nimpo Lake is characterized by South Carrier and Chilcotin (or Tsilhqot'in) First Nations inhabitance, European exploration, and ranching.

Highway 20, Nimpo Lake's main connection to the rest of British Columbia, also has a unique military past.

Ulkatcho First Nation

The Ulkatcho First Nation (pronounced ul-gat-cho) is a sub-group of the South Carrier First Nation and part of the Athabascan linguistic group that has lived nomadically for centuries in the Nimpo Lake area. Following seasonal food sources and trading opportunities, the Ulkatcho people summered in the Itcha and Ilgachuz Mountains. Today, the remote reaches of the Itcha and Ilgachuz Mountains remain largely unexplored. An ancient obsidian quarry is the only local archeological site. Guides do offer accompanied backcountry hiking and trail riding in this area.

Wilderness Ranching

In the 1900s, European settlers began moving into the Nimpo Lake area through the Bella Coola Valley to establish ranches. Rich Hobson and Pan Phillips are two famous ranchers of this era. Hobson documented ranching life in Grass Beyond the Mountains, Nothing too Good for a Cowboy (which became a television series), and The Rancher Takes a Wife. Today, Phillips' original ranch operates as a resort.

Highway 20

Highway 20 has, throughout the years, received military attention. In 1941, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, military intelligence considered the deep-sea port of Bella Coola a likely next target. The single telephone line running along Highway 20 seemed inadequate for emergency communication, so the Government Telegraph Service with the Department of National Defense decided to build a new one. In 1945, the Canadian army carried out exercises – dubbed project "Polar Bear" – at Heckman Pass (just one hour from Nimpo Lake) in preparation for a possible invasion. As a result of the Cold War, from 1950 to 1965, the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast region (Highway 20 included) was again on high alert as an access point to North America.