So the next morning, June 26th, we packed our picnic lunches and set out towards Telegraph Creek. It is 70 miles (113km) from Dease Lake on a well maintained gravel road.
The road travels through the Grand Canyon of the Stikine. The Stikine River runs all the way to Wrangell, Alaska, approximately 150 miles from Telegraph Creek.
Not far along our journey we were greeted by this little fox! He posed very nicely for us!
The Grand Canyon of the Stikine is a 45 mile stretch of the Stikine river. The river here has a reputation as being the ‘Mt Everest’ of big water expedition whitewater boating, against which all other navigable rivers are measured. Officially the canyon is described as unnavigable by any watercraft, but there have been numerous successful trips made by expert whitewater paddlers since the first one in 1981.
As I mentioned it is a well maintained gravel road, but there are narrow, winding and steep sections to deal with.
The Stikine River Route was used to haul men and equipment to build the airport in Watson Lake, Yukon, during WW2. Riverboats arrived daily to Telegraph Creek and trucks ran day and night, to and from Dease Lake with supplies. The supplies then traveled by boat up Dease Lake into Dease River and then Liard River to Lower Post and the Alaska Highway! Once the Alaska Highway was completed boat traffic slowed down. The last river boat, the Margaret Rose, made her final voyage in 1969.
Tahltan First Nations have lived generations in this area and it still remains the heartland of their culture today.
In 1838 Robert Campbell of the Hudson Bay Company arrived in Tahltan country from the interior, reported to be the first European in the area, making the Tahltan the last clan in N America to have European contact. Some of the original Hudson Bay Post buildings are still there, and in use today. This building houses a wonderful restaurant! (and Ice cream!!)
In 1861 gold was discovered in the Stikine River just south of the existing Telegraph Creek. This started Gold Fever and brought a rush of settlers into the area. As more outsiders arrived so did disease, and Tahltan families suffered tremendous losses because of it.
Telegraph Creek is historically significant as a staging point for two telegraph lines. The Collins Overland Telegraph Line proposed to connect North America to Europe through Siberia. In 1866, surveying for the construction of this overland telegraph gave Telegraph Creek its name, although the line was never built. As the head of navigation on the Stikine River, Telegraph Creek functioned as the northern outpost for the Dominion (Yukon) Telegraph line, with survey and construction occurring north to Atlin and south to Hazelton. Sternwheelers arrived regularly with wire and other construction materials. Completed in 1901, the Dominion Telegraph line connected the Yukon with southern Canada following much of the Collins Overland proposed route. As a result Telegraph Creek became the major center between Hazelton and Atlin.
There are many old cabins and houses left in Telegraph Creek, even some old trucks laid to rest in the weeds!
Telegraph Creek is loved for it’s historical value. The lay out of the town basically remains as it always has, following the lines of the river. It evokes a sense of a bygone era, and retains the character of a nineteenth century small town in its variety and style of structures, in an area that is still remote wilderness.
If these walls could talk!
Currently the population of Telegraph Creek is about 250 and is the only permanent settlement on the Stikine River. It has nurses on call 24/7 and 2 RCMP officers assigned.
I believe tourism and outdoor recreation are the two biggest ‘industries’ in the area with guiding for hunters being very popular.
The graveyard looks out over the river valley. While wandering through you cannot help but wonder about the lives these people lived in the river boat and gold rush days!
This was a wonderful side trip into our British Columbia history! Now to meander back to Dease Lake……
Until next time!