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Bella Coola, British Columbia

Bella Coola, British Columbia

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Bella Coola is a community of approximately 600 at the western extremity of the Bella Coola Valley. Bella Coola usually refers to the entire valley, encompassing the settlements of Bella Coola proper ("the townsite"), Lower Bella Coola, Hagensborg
Hagensborg, British Columbia
Hagensborg is a small community in the Bella Coola Valley in British Columbia, Canada. Its census population in 2006 was 248. The valley was already the ancient home to the Nuxálk people when European explorers arrived. Norwegian settlers from Minnesota and Wisconsin arrived in 1894, and the town...

, Saloompt, Nusatsum, Firvale and Stuie. It is also the location of the head offices of the Central Coast Regional District
Central Coast Regional District, British Columbia
Central Coast Regional District is a regional district in British Columbia, Canada. It has a total land area of 24,559.5 km² . When it was created in 1968, it was named the Ocean Falls Regional District, after the then-largest town in the region, the company town Ocean Falls, now a ghost town...

.

The entire Bella Coola Valley contains a population of 1900 as of the 2006 Canadian census. This was a drop of 17% from the 2001 census, when the population was 2289.

Geography


The primary geographical structure of the community, both in terms of physical structures and population distribution is the long, narrow Bella Coola River
Bella Coola River
The Bella Coola River is a major river on the Pacific slope of the Coast Mountains in southern British Columbia. The town of Bella Coola, which is the historic and ancient capital of the Nuxalk people, is at its mouth on North Bentinck Arm...

 valley. Highway 20 (known over most of its length as the Chilcotin Highway) stretches from the Government wharf (on the Pacific Ocean
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

) through the extent of the populated portion of the valley before climbing to the Chilcotin Plateau
Chilcotin Plateau
The Chilcotin Plateau is part of the Fraser Plateau, a major subdivision of the Interior Plateau of British Columbia. The Chilcotin Plateau is physically near-identical with the region of the same name, i.e...

, and the entire population of the community lives either on this road or very near to it.

In recent years, the mountainous terrain around (and accessible from) the Bella Coola Valley has become a publicized destination for heliskiing
Heliskiing
Heliskiing is off-trail, downhill skiing that is accessed by a helicopter, not a ski lift. Heliskiing is essentially about skiing in a natural—albeit highly selected—environment without the effort or gear compromise required for hiking into these areas as in ski touring or ski mountaineering.Most...

, with a number of skiing movies filmed in the area, and local companies advertising access to 1500000 acres (6,070.3 km²) of terrain.

Climate


On July 30, 2009, Bella Coola recorded its hottest-ever day on record, reaching a high of 41.2 degrees Celsius.

Road


There is a 479 km mostly paved road connection by Highway 20 to Williams Lake
Williams Lake, British Columbia
Williams Lake, is a city in the Central Interior of British Columbia, Canada. Located in the central part of a region known as the Cariboo, it is the largest urban centre between Kamloops and Prince George, with a population of 11,150 in city limits....

. The road features an 18% grade and narrow, winding switchbacks on the climb out of Bella Coola through the coastal mountains. Once out of Bella Coola, it runs through the mountainous Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park
Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park
Tweedsmuir South Provincial Park is a provincial park in British Columbia, Canada. Formerly part of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park it was formed from the southern portion of that park, the northern portion being redesignated Tweedsmuir North Provincial Park and Protected Area in order to allow...

, which contains a great deal of wildlife, including grizzlies
Grizzly Bear
The grizzly bear , also known as the silvertip bear, the grizzly, or the North American brown bear, is a subspecies of brown bear that generally lives in the uplands of western North America...

 and black bears
American black bear
The American black bear is a medium-sized bear native to North America. It is the continent's smallest and most common bear species. Black bears are omnivores, with their diets varying greatly depending on season and location. They typically live in largely forested areas, but do leave forests in...

 and then through the mostly desolate country of the Chilcotin Plateau.

Air


Bella Coola is also served by the Bella Coola Airport
Bella Coola Airport
Bella Coola Airport, , is located northeast of Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada.This airport is limited to Day/VFR operations. Weather reports are available most days until 3PM local time by contacting Kamloops Flight Service ....

 (on Highway 20, in Hagensborg), 16 km distant from the townsite which has a 1,280 metre asphalt
Asphalt
Asphalt or , also known as bitumen, is a sticky, black and highly viscous liquid or semi-solid that is present in most crude petroleums and in some natural deposits, it is a substance classed as a pitch...

 runway
Runway
According to ICAO a runway is a "defined rectangular area on a land aerodrome prepared for the landing and take-off of aircraft." Runways may be a man-made surface or a natural surface .- Orientation and dimensions :Runways are named by a number between 01 and 36, which is generally one tenth...

. Pacific Coastal Airlines
Pacific Coastal Airlines
Pacific Coastal Airlines is an airline based in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. It operates scheduled, charter and cargo services to destinations in British Columbia. Its main base is Vancouver International Airport, with a hub at Port Hardy Airport....

 offers scheduled traffic to Vancouver
Vancouver
Vancouver is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is the hub of Greater Vancouver, which, with over 2.3 million residents, is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country,...

 and Anahim Lake
Anahim Lake, British Columbia
Anahim Lake is a small community in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Its name, and the name of the associated lake, in the Tsilhqot'in language, is Tl'etinqox. The village and surrounding areas have a population of approximately 1500. The Ulkatcho First Nation has 729 living on nearby...

. Charter flights to other destinations can be arranged.

Marine ferry


BC Ferries
BC Ferries
British Columbia Ferry Services Inc. or BC Ferries is a de facto Crown Corporation that provides all major passenger and vehicle ferry services for coastal and island communities in the Canadian province of British Columbia...

 provides a vehicle/passenger service in the summer (June 5-September 3) to Port Hardy
Port Hardy, British Columbia
Port Hardy is a district municipality in British Columbia, Canada located on the north-eastern coast of Vancouver Island. Port Hardy has a population of 3822 at last census...

 on the northern tip of Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island
Vancouver Island is a large island in British Columbia, Canada. It is one of several North American locations named after George Vancouver, the British Royal Navy officer who explored the Pacific Northwest coast of North America between 1791 and 1794...

.

During the rest of the year (mid-September to mid-June), a smaller ferry
Ferry
A ferry is a form of transportation, usually a boat, but sometimes a ship, used to carry primarily passengers, and sometimes vehicles and cargo as well, across a body of water. Most ferries operate on regular, frequent, return services...

 service can be used to "shuttle" to outlying coastal communities McLoughlin Bay, Shearwater
Shearwater, British Columbia
Shearwater is a community in coastal British Columbia. It is located three miles from Bella Bella on Denny Island. It is part of the Heiltsuk First Nation.- History :...

, Klemtu
Klemtu, British Columbia
Klemtu is a small village on Swindle Island in the coastal fjords of British Columbia, Canada.Klemtu is the home of the Kitasoo tribe of Tsimshians, originally from Kitasu Bay, and the Xai'xais of Kynoc Inlet, a subgroup of the Heiltsuk people. These two tribes live together as, and are jointly...

 and Ocean Falls
Ocean Falls, British Columbia
Ocean Falls is a community on the Central Coast of British Columbia, Canada. Formerly a large company town owned by Crown Zellerbach, it is only accessible via boat or seaplane, and is home for a few dozen full-time residents, with the seasonal population upwards of 100.-Geography and...

, for available transfers at McLoughlin Bay to a ferry serving either Prince Rupert
Prince Rupert, British Columbia
Prince Rupert is a port city in the province of British Columbia, Canada. It is the land, air, and water transportation hub of British Columbia's North Coast, and home to some 12,815 people .-History:...

 or Port Hardy. Schedule varies throughout the season.

History



The Nuxalk
Nuxálk Nation
The Nuxalk Nation , also referred to as the Bella Coola or Bellacoola, are an Indigenous First Nation in Canada, living in the area in and around Bella Coola, British Columbia...

 people were present in the Bella Coola valley prior to any formal written history of the area. This is confirmed both by oral history that continues unbroken to present day, and by written history of some of the first European explorers of the area.

In 1793, Alexander MacKenzie arrived from the east, completing the first recorded crossing of the continent north of Mexico.

Immigration (non-Nuxalk) to the region was sporadic and often temporary for the next century. A Hudson's Bay
Hudson's Bay Company
The Hudson's Bay Company , abbreviated HBC, or "The Bay" is the oldest commercial corporation in North America and one of the oldest in the world. A fur trading business for much of its existence, today Hudson's Bay Company owns and operates retail stores throughout Canada...

 fur trading post was set up at the mouth of the river (the land granted to the post forms the off-Reserve portion of the present-day "townsite"), and a handful of farmers were granted land further up the valley. The trading trails of the Nuxalk and neighbouring nations became a popular route from the Pacific Ocean to central British Columbia, particularly during the Cariboo Gold Rush
Cariboo Gold Rush
The Cariboo Gold Rush was a gold rush in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Although the first gold discovery was made in 1859 at Horsefly Creek, followed by more strikes at Keithley Creek and Antler Horns lake in 1860, the actual rush did not begin until 1861, when these discoveries were...

 of the 1860s. In the 1870s the valley was surveyed as a potential Pacific terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway
Canadian Pacific Railway
The Canadian Pacific Railway , formerly also known as CP Rail between 1968 and 1996, is a historic Canadian Class I railway founded in 1881 and now operated by Canadian Pacific Railway Limited, which began operations as legal owner in a corporate restructuring in 2001...

 (Burrard Inlet
Burrard Inlet
Burrard Inlet is a relatively shallow-sided coastal fjord in southwestern British Columbia, Canada. Formed during the last Ice Age, it separates the City of Vancouver and the rest of the low-lying Burrard Peninsula from the slopes of the North Shore Mountains, home to the communities of West...

 was the eventual choice, its selection giving birth to the city of Vancouver
Vancouver
Vancouver is a coastal seaport city on the mainland of British Columbia, Canada. It is the hub of Greater Vancouver, which, with over 2.3 million residents, is the third most populous metropolitan area in the country,...

).

In the 1890s, a group of Norwegian Lutheran settlers were given land grant
Land grant
A land grant is a gift of real estate – land or its privileges – made by a government or other authority as a reward for services to an individual, especially in return for military service...

s in the valley, after their previously-existing community in Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

 suffered an internal conflict. The land they were granted, as well as other land previously granted to individuals was, in many cases, land that had been occupied by Nuxalk communities only a few decades (or less) earlier. However, a smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 epidemic had decimated the Nuxalk population, and the survivors had, for the most part, gathered on land close to the mouth of the river (and close to the Hudson's Bay post). The Norwegian settlement was named Hagensborg
Hagensborg, British Columbia
Hagensborg is a small community in the Bella Coola Valley in British Columbia, Canada. Its census population in 2006 was 248. The valley was already the ancient home to the Nuxálk people when European explorers arrived. Norwegian settlers from Minnesota and Wisconsin arrived in 1894, and the town...

 and remains one of the main communities of the Bella Coola Valley. Although much of the Norwegian colony's population did migrate away, others stayed to work in forestry and in the development of the fishing industry. The cannery at Tallheo
Tallheo, British Columbia
Tallheo is a First Nations community of the Nuxálk people and former cannery town near Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada, on North Bentinck Arm...

, across the arm from Bella Coola, was founded by a Norwegian settler who had given up on farming in the area.

These two populations (Norwegian settlers and Nuxalk), in varying proportions, continued to make up the vast majority of the community's population for most of the next century. However, in recent years, the Norwegian population (or connection to a Norwegian identity) has declined. In 2001, 43% of the population reported "Aboriginal identity", of which the vast majority is Nuxalk, while only 10% reported Norwegian (or Norwegian-Canadian) to be their "Ethnic Origin".

When the community of Ocean Falls
Ocean Falls, British Columbia
Ocean Falls is a community on the Central Coast of British Columbia, Canada. Formerly a large company town owned by Crown Zellerbach, it is only accessible via boat or seaplane, and is home for a few dozen full-time residents, with the seasonal population upwards of 100.-Geography and...

 suffered a massive population decline in 1980/81, due to the closure of the town's primary industry (a paper mill), Bella Coola became the administrative centre for British Columbia's central coast. This led to the relocation of the Central Coast Regional District (which, up until that time had been called the "Ocean Falls Regional District") offices to Bella Coola, and a general centralization of government services such as provincial government regional centres (e.g. Ministry of Forests) in Bella Coola.

Economy


Bella Coola has a more diversified economy than might be expected among a population of its size. Fishing, forestry, public service (government/education), retail and tourism all contribute significantly to the economy. There is some limited agriculture, including an active farmers' market, a number of craftmakers and artists (including several celebrated Nuxalk artisans) and a fish hatchery. The only financial institution in Bella Coola is a branch of the Williams Lake & District Credit Union, heir to a sixty-plus-year tradition of the Bella Coola Valley Credit Union.

Bella Coola in popular culture


In the 2008 movie The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk (film)
The Incredible Hulk is a 2008 superhero action film based on the Marvel Comics character the Hulk. It is directed by Louis Leterrier and stars Edward Norton as Dr. Bruce Banner. It is the second film to be released in the Marvel Cinematic Universe...

, the main character, Bruce Banner / Hulk concludes the plot by escaping to Bella Coola, where he attempts to control his transformations. Significant footage for the film was shot in and near Bella Coola, though only very limited amounts were retained in the finished product.

Elected representatives


The Bella Coola Valley includes Electoral Areas C, D and E of the Central Coast Regional District
Central Coast Regional District, British Columbia
Central Coast Regional District is a regional district in British Columbia, Canada. It has a total land area of 24,559.5 km² . When it was created in 1968, it was named the Ocean Falls Regional District, after the then-largest town in the region, the company town Ocean Falls, now a ghost town...

 (CCRD)
  • Electoral Area C: Brian Lande
  • Electoral Area D: Kevin O'Neill
  • Electoral Area E: Christine Hyde (chair of the Board of Directors of the Regional District)


The Bella Coola Valley is located within the North Coast
North Coast (provincial electoral district)
North Coast is a provincial electoral district for the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Canada. It was created by 1990 legislation which came into effect for the 1991 B.C. election, largely out of the previous riding of Prince Rupert....

 electoral district of the British Columbia Legislative Assembly. The riding is represented by New Democrat
New Democratic Party
The New Democratic Party , commonly referred to as the NDP, is a federal social-democratic political party in Canada. The interim leader of the NDP is Nycole Turmel who was appointed to the position due to the illness of Jack Layton, who died on August 22, 2011. The provincial wings of the NDP in...

 MLA Gary Coons
Gary Coons
Gary Earl Coons is the Member of the Legislative Assembly for the North Coast riding of British Columbia, Canada....



The Bella Coola Valley is split between two Electoral Districts
Electoral district (Canada)
An electoral district in Canada, also known as a constituency or a riding, is a geographical constituency upon which Canada's representative democracy is based...

 in the Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 federal government.
  • Skeena—Bulkley Valley
    Skeena—Bulkley Valley
    Skeena—Bulkley Valley is a federal electoral district in British Columbia, Canada, that has been represented in the Canadian House of Commons since 2004.-Geography:...

     (includes CCRD Electoral Areas D and E, 70% of the Valley's population): New Democrat Nathan Cullen
    Nathan Cullen
    Nathan Cullen is a Canadian Member of Parliament for the riding of Skeena—Bulkley Valley in the Canadian House of Commons. He is a candidate for the federal leadership of the NDP. A native of Toronto, Ontario, Cullen is fluent in English, French and Spanish and is married with young twin sons...

  • Cariboo—Prince George
    Cariboo—Prince George
    Cariboo—Prince George is a federal electoral district in the province of British Columbia, Canada, that has been represented in the Canadian House of Commons since 2004.-Geography:...

     (includes CCRD Electoral C): Conservative Dick Harris
    Dick Harris
    Richard M. "Dick" Harris is a Canadian politician. He is a Member of Parliament and member of the Conservative Party of Canada. He also was a member of the Reform Party of Canada and the Canadian Alliance. He represents the electoral district of Cariboo—Prince George, and formerly Prince...


External links