Kitimat sits at Mile 0 of Highway 37 and at the base of the Douglas Channel, a 90-km-long passage that winds through the Coast Mountains and connects to the Pacific Ocean. Here, eagles perch on Cedar treetops while Orange Starfish cling to the rocks under the sea below.
No trip to Kitimat is complete without getting on the ocean and exploring this part of the northwest’s coast. Stop in at the Visitor Information Centre to enquire about kayaking or booking a charter to take you on a tour down the Channel to the Weewanie or Bishop Bay- Hot Springs. Look out for sea lions, orcas, humpback whales and dolphins.
There are numerous fishing charter companies that can be booked to take you to see the beauty of the Douglas Channel and potential wildlife spotting, or the opportunity to fish the ocean or on the river. Some of the largest halibut and Chinook Salmon in the world are caught in the Channel, and year-round there’s Dungeness and King Crab to trap.
The densely wooded area around Kitimat also offers hikes of varying difficulty levels. For an easy walk in a mossy, old growth forest, stroll along the Hirsch Creek Park trail. For a more substantial hike with a great view of the surrounding area, check out the Robinson Lake Trail.
In the winter, snowmobilers can choose from two trails: Clague mountain and Robinson Ridge. Both have an emergency cabin at the top available to members of the Kitimat Snowmobile and Hikers Club. Always take every safety precaution before heading out and while in the backcountry. Nordic skiers will find a 35km of easy to moderate cross-country trails at Onion Lake, including 5km of lit trails for night skiing, approximately 30 kilometres north of town.
While the town of Kitimat offers exceptional outdoor experiences, its foundation is industry. Kitimat was planned and built by Alcan in the 1950s for workers at the local aluminum smelter, which was later purchased by Rio Tinto. As people moved here from all over the world, Kitimat became a mixing pot of cultures – Portuguese, Italian, Sikh and Greek, to name a few. Smelter tours can be booked through the Kitimat Visitor Centre and take place on Fridays at 1:00 pm during July and August.
Move to present day, and Kitimat is once again in the industrial spotlight. LNG Canada recently announced the building of a liquefied natural gas facility here. This $40-billion-project is the largest ever industrial project announced for Canada. Drive through the industrial part of town to get a feel for the unprecedented amount of development happening here. The landscape is changing every day.
The local First Nations, the Haisla, are based in Kitamaat Village, just 10 km south of Kitimat. The road to the village winds along the ocean and offers excellent views of the lowland tidewater filled with massive tree stumps. In Kitamaat Village, take note of the Haisla Community School. The wooden building is shaped like the backbone of a salmon. The Haisla have lived off the land and waters of their traditional territory for thousands of years, and it remains the focus of all they do.