Indigenous Culture & History Along Nisga’a Highway 113
At nearly 100 kilometres, Highway 113 is shorter in length to the region’s other routes, but no less spectacular. As you head north from Terrace into Nisga’a Lands, also known as the Nass Valley and home to the Nisga’a people, you’ll bear witness to the ancient and energizing forces of this part of the Northwest. Otherworldly volcanic lava fields, the aquamarine K’alii-askim Lisims (Nass River), sacred and snow-capped mountains, sunlit alpine meadows, natural hot springs, and evidence of thousands of years of Nisga’a history and culture are all found within a few hours’ drive.
Plan Your Trip
This out and back route takes you along Highway 113 and forks at the junction of Nass Road, where to the west you can visit the Nisga’a communities of Gitwinksihlkw, Laxgalts’ap, and Gingolx, and to the northeast, Gitlaxt’aamiks. From Gitlaxt’aamiks, you can continue along the well-graded Cranberry Connector gravel road, which links to the Stewart-Cassiar Highway just south of Stewart and the Meziadin Junction. Services and amenities are limited along this route; stock up on supplies and gas where available.
Note: Nisga’a Tourism offers a self-guided auto tour route, which will take you to see 18 points of interest via a well-marked map. Download it here.
Start your journey in Terrace. Before venturing north into Nisga’a Lands, detour 20 kilometres east of the city to Kitselas Canyon, a National Historic Site, which showcases four traditional longhouses from the 1800s. Wander the nature trail, which leads from the main site through moss-covered forest and past totems to a viewing platform above the Skeena River. Don’t miss the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art at Coast Mountain College, located five minutes after the turnoff on Highway 113. Here you can see the emerging artwork of the next generation of Indigenous artists in action.
Rosswood and Kitsumkalum Lake
The rural community of Rosswood sits 37 kilometres from Terrace at the north end of Kitsumkalum Lake, a deep blue freshwater lake known for its excellent boating opportunities. Hike the 24-kilometres out and back trail on nearby Wesach Mountain, which will take you into the subalpine to see wildflowers and a stunning vista overlooking the long arm of Kitsumkalum Lake. Pad your supplies at the Rosswood General Store where you’ll find interesting snacks, grocery items and local products (don’t miss the Bulkley Valley Honey and Nass Valley Wild Medicine products), before hitting the road north.
Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park
It’s impossible to miss the otherworldly landscape of Anhluut’ukwsim Laxmihl Angwinga’asanskwhl Nisga’a Memorial Lava Bed Park. The site of Canada’s last volcanic eruption, here fields of molten lava rock, now covered in varying shades of green and yellow lichen, sprawl for 23 kilometres along either side of the highway, contrasting with the blue-black, snow-capped peaks of the Nass Mountain Range beyond.
Overnight at the 16-site vehicle-accessible campground and spend a few days exploring the unique landscape. Guided and self-guided tours offer visitors the chance to hike through stunning old-growth forest en route to a viewpoint overlooking the crater (to protect this area of geological significance, public access is only via the guided tour). To cool off during your tour, visit Vetter Falls. To see the falls, walk the short 20-minute stroll (the trailhead sits just off the highway) to a platform overlooking the green-hued cascading water.
Gitlaxt’aamiks is the capital of the Nisga’a Nation and the largest community in the Nass Valley. Take the turnoff northeast at the junction of Highway 113 and Nass Road and within 10 minutes, be in view of four pts’aans (totem poles) — each representing the four Nisga’a clans, Raven, Killer Whale, Eagle, and Wolf — that stand in front of the community centre. Swing by Big Poppa’s Pizza or refresh your snack supplies at the New Aiyansh Gas Bar. North of the village, Dragon Lakes is popular as a fishing, swimming and camping destination.
Be sure to stop in at the carving shed to see traditional pieces by master carver, Calvin McNeil. If you are lucky, you’ll catch Calvin in the midst of crafting his latest creation, or telling stories of the Nisga’a people to onlookers.
From the junction, head west on Nass Road en route to Gitwinksihlkw. Located directly on the Nass River, this village is home to a foot-only suspension bridge that connects both sides of the river. For more than 400 years, this suspension bridge was the only access point to the village. Grab your camera and stroll across as you look for birds eyeing their dinner from the waters teeming with oolichan and other species of fish. Just west of the village, soak your driving muscles at the Hlgu Isgwit Hot Springs, a series of naturally spring-fed pools piped into round wooden tubs set on wooden decks in the quiet forest and accessed by a well-maintained boardwalk.
Laxgalts’ap is home to the Nisga’a Museum, a stunning wood and glass contemporary building inspired by the design of traditional Nisga’a longhouses. The nearly 1,000-square-metre museum contains important and exquisitely carved masks, bentwood boxes, headdresses, and other mostly repatriated works of art — acquired from Nisga’a people during the late 19th and 20th centuries in the aptly named “Ancestors Collection.” Don’t miss the fascinating history of the Nisga’a Treaty, told by oral recordings, documents, and paraphernalia, the first modern-day treaty to be signed in British Columbia and a historic moment of self-determination for the Nisga’a peoples.
Set in the scenic Nass Valley at the ocean’s edge, it’s no wonder this community is named the “Seafood Capital of the Nass”. Take a stroll around the village and admire the village’s totem poles and seaside trail, then walk to the community dock to see fishermen crabbing for Dungeness. Watch for eagles soaring above you as they dive for salmon, or wander the The Lookout Trail, which winds its way from sea level to the bluffs above, for a scenic viewpoint overlooking the village and ocean.
To explore the area’s rugged and salty shoreline up close, book a guided trip with Northern BC Jet Boat Tours, to adventure to nearby remote ghost towns, all accessible by water, now being reclaimed by nature. Back in town, grab some fish n’ chips from the storied seafood restaurant U See Food U Eat It and dine seaside from one of the picnic tables located along the waterfront path. In the morning, enjoy your coffee as you take in the spectacular views of the Nass River where it meets the Pacific Ocean from the B&B’s prime location on Front Street.
The three major highways (16, 37 and 113) offer views of changing terrains and plentiful wildlife as you pass through the region.
The mountains and rivers give life to the northwest and give many natural adventure options. The Kitimat, Skeena and Nass rivers are nestled amongst the Coast Mountains and offer an immersive wilderness experience.
The wintertime in the northwest takes on a different personality from the warmer seasons. Each community offers different on-piste, backcountry, and cross-country skiing options, and snowmobiling.