Cascades Mountains Leeward Forests, Part 3

The east side of the Cascades and Chilcotin Ranges grade from montane forests to near-desert grasslands. Montane forests of lodgepole pine, quaking aspen, white spruce, and Douglas-fir grade into low-elevation parklands of ponderosa pine, bunchgrass and sagebrush. Animals include bighorn sheep, mountain goat, grizzly bear, black-tailed deer and coyote. The ecoregion is also home to the endangered spotted owl. Included in this ecoregion are the Marble Range and Lillooet Range along the Fraser River. Downing and Marble Canyon Provincial Parks host unusual freshwater stromatolites. Other scenic sites are Big Creek, Marble Range, Stein Valley, and Ts’il?os Provincial Parks. In the 2017 ecoregions update, the southern portion of this ecoregion was merged with the Okanagan Dry Forests and the northern portion (Big Creek Provincial Park and north) with the Fraser Plateau and Basin Forests. However, it has been retained here because the ecoregion retains the dramatic mountains, glaciers and alpine lakes that are not found in the drier and less precipitous areas to the east.

The following are major features of the ecoregion north of latitude 50 degrees. Sites south of 50 degrees are in a January 2, 2016, post and also viewable at sites.google.com/site/enviroramble.

Bedard Aspen Provincial Park (N50⁰40’ W121⁰31’) is 173 ha found southwest of Cache Creek. Geology includes lava flows and limestone. There are grasslands with aspen and Douglas-fir forests.

Big Bar Lake Provincial Park (N51⁰19’ W121⁰49’) is 368 ha located 42 km northwest of Clinton via gravel roads through the Cariboo ranching country. Forests are of old growth Douglas fir, lodgepole pine and spruce. Most of the park is in the Fraser Plateau ecoregion, but the southern slopes of the park are in the Cascade Mountains Eastern Slopes ecoregion, which includes the Marble Range that towers over the park.

Big Creek Provincial Park is a 67,918-ha preserve encompassing much of the Big Creek watershed. It includes the flat forested Chilcotin Plateau in the Fraser Plateau and Basin ecoregion in the north (N51ᵒ29’ W123ᵒ7’) as well as dramatic mountains, glaciers, and alpine lakes in the south (51ᵒ7’ W123ᵒ10’). There are extensive wetlands and moose habitat, and fossil beds on Elbow Mountain (N51ᵒ9’ W123ᵒ7’). Access is from Route 20 at Riske Creek via a logging road.

Birkenhead Lake Provincial Park (N50⁰32’ W122⁰42’) is 10,439 ha in the Sockeye Creek drainage 22 km west of D’Arcy. Access is via gravel road. There are four trails along the lake and to Goat Lookout.

Bishop River Provincial Park (N50ᵒ54’ W124ᵒ0’) is a 19,947-ha property adjoining the south end of Ts’il?os Provincial Park. The park is roadless and trail-less. A small northern edge of the park is within the Cascade Mountains Leeward forests ecoregion. The remainder is in the British Columbia Mainland Coastal Forests ecoregion.

Blue Earth Lake Provincial Park (N50⁰36’ W121⁰30’) is 689 ha located 30 km southwest of Cache Creek. The park has a marble canyon with limestones and volcanic rocks.

Bridge River Hydroelectric Project consists of three dams and reservoirs, as well as a canal and powerhouse on the Fraser River (N50ᵒ40’ W121ᵒ55’). The Seton Dam and Reservoir (N50ᵒ40’ W121ᵒ59’) provides water to a diversion canal leading to the Bridge Powerhouse No. 1 on the Fraser River. Terzaghi Dam and Carpenter Reservoir (N50ᵒ47’ W122ᵒ13’) and Lajoie Dam and Downton Reservoir (N50ᵒ50’ W122ᵒ51’) are on the Bridge River.

Burnt Creek Trail (N51⁰44’ W124⁰50’), BC Sites and Trails, begins at a trailhead on Mosley Creek Road and traverses a narrow canyon for 8 km, providing views of alpine terrain.

Butler Peak and Lake Trail (N51⁰46’ W124⁰42’), BC Sites and Trails, extends 11 km from a trailhead north of Bluff Lake in the Fraser Plateau and Basin ecoregion and extends to Butler Lake. A spur climbs south to Butler Peak.

South Chilcotin Mountains Provincial Park is 56,796 ha with 200 km of trails to valleys, alpine meadows, and ridges. It includes the watershed of Lizard, Leckie and Gun Creeks and is located 150 km north of Whistler and 95 km west of Lillooet. The south end of the park is accessed 12 km north of Highway 40 at Jewell Bridge Trailhead (N50ᵒ55’ W122ᵒ55’). The northern end is near Relay Creek (N51ᵒ11’ W122ᵒ59’), the west end is near Nichols Creek (N50ᵒ59’ W123ᵒ21’), and the eastern end is Tayaughton Creek (N51ᵒ3’ W122ᵒ48’).

Chromium Creek-Emerald Lake Trail (N51⁰48’ W125⁰4’) is a 4-km trail through open alpine country in the Pantheon Range. The trail drops to Emerald Lake on the Klinaklini River.

Cornwall Hills Provincial Park (N50⁰42’ W121⁰28’) is 1,235 ha about 15 km southwest of Cache Creek. The park is known for Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir with grasslands hosting wildflowers in July and August.

Downing Provincial Park (N51⁰0’ W121⁰47’) adjoins Edge Hills Provincial Park on the south. This 139-ha park is 18 km southwest of Clinton on Kelly Lake Road. Kelly Lake within the park contains stromatolites, which are also found in Marble Canyon Provincial Park, but are mostly known in the fossil record and only exist elsewhere in saltwater environments in Western Australia.

Duffey Lake Provincial Park (N50⁰25’ W122⁰17’) is 4,048 ha on Route 99 about 35 km east of Pemberton. It includes alpine areas on Mount Rohr.

Edge Hills Provincial Park (N51⁰2’ W121⁰52’) is 11,850 ha between Porcupine Creek and the Fraser River, southwest of Clinton and east of Fraser Canyon. Kelly Lake Road provides access. The park is noted for panoramic river canyon vistas. Vegetation is bunchgrass-sagebrush, Douglas-fir, and montane spruce. Downing Provincial Park adjoins Edge Hills on the south.

Goldpan Provincial Park (N50⁰21’ W121⁰23’) is 5 ha along Route 1 about 10 km south of Spences Bridge. The campground and fishing park is also used for river rafting.

Haller and Grinder Trails (N51⁰11’ W122⁰0’), BC Parks and Trails, are two loops totaling 40 km between the Marble Range and the Fraser River canyon. The trails traverse the Kostering Creek Area.

Harry Lake Aspen Provincial Park (N50⁰48’ W121⁰32’) is 330 ha located 40 km west of Cache Creek. Grassland and Douglas fir-aspen vegetation is found in the park.  Geology is basalt in the north and sandstone and limestone elsewhere. The park is south of Route 99, the Sea-to-Sky Highway.

Homathko River-Tatlayoko Protected Area is 17,575 ha along the river corridors of the Homathko River, Tatlayoko Lake, Ottarasko River, and Mosley Creek. The park protects low elevation coastal rainforests and wetlands as well as icefields. There are grizzly bears and trumpeter swans. The park is accessed from Route 20 near Tatla Lake. Most of the park is in the Cascade Mountains Leeward forests ecoregion, including the north end at Tatlayoko Lake (N51ᵒ39’ W124ᵒ25’), the Ottarasko River arm (N51ᵒ31’ W124ᵒ34’), and the Mosley Creek section (N51ᵒ34’ W125ᵒ1’). The southern portions are in the British Columbia Mainland Coastal forests ecoregion.

Kappan Mountain Trail (N52⁰22’W125⁰31’), BC Sites and Trails, provides scenic views of Kappan and Hotnarko Lakes, Hunlin Falls, and the Coast Ranges.

Marble Canyon Provincial Park (N50⁰52’ W121⁰44’) is 355 ha along Route 99 about 40 km northwest of Cache Creek. The limestone canyon has cliffs about 1 km high. There are three lakes—Crown, Pavilion, and Turquoise. Pavilion Lake has stromatolites. These are the largest freshwater stromatolites known, and they started forming about 11,000 years ago. The lake is slightly alkaline. Turquoise Lake is fed by a waterfall.

Marble Range Provincial Park includes 17,920 ha of an unusual mountain range for British Columbia—one made of limestone. There are caves, sinkholes, cliffs, chasms, and crenulated ridges. The park is located between Clinton and Fraser Canyon. Vegetation of old growth Douglas fir, spruce, and lodgepole pine is found at lower elevations, with subalpine parklands and tundra at higher elevations.  The northern edge of the park is near Jesmond Lookout (N51⁰18’ W121⁰54’) and the southern end is south of Mount Soues on Gabriel Creek (N51⁰3’ W121⁰44’).

Mehatl Creek Provincial Park is 23,860 ha 50 km west of Route 1 at Boston Bar. The park features alpine ridges and old growth forests. Most of the park is in the British Columbia Mainland coastal forests ecoregion.

Nahatlatch Provincial Park (N50⁰0’ W121⁰43’) is 1,695 ha along the Nahatlatch River 25 km northwest of Boston Bar. The river has challenging rapids for kayakers, along with mountain peaks and glaciers.

Nlhaxten/Cerise Creek Conservancy (N50⁰21’ W122⁰26’) is 2,272 ha adjacent to Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. Culturally modified trees and rock art are present in the area jointly managed by the Lil’wat Nation.

Oregon Jack Provincial Park (N50⁰38’ W121⁰29’) is 233 ha located 25 km southwest of Cache Creek. The limestone canyon includes a waterfall on Oregon Jack Creek. The park also has wetlands and cultural resources (pictographs and rock shelters).

Perkins Peak Trail (N51⁰50’ W125⁰2’), BC Sites and Trails, climbs from its trailhead to 9,324-foot Perkins Peak.

Porcupine Creek Trail (N51⁰4’ W121⁰50’), BC Sites and Trails, traverses the Porcupine Creek canyon, noted for wildflowers, alpine landscapes, and limestone bluffs and rock formations near the Marble Range and Edge Hills Provincial Parks.

North Potato Trail (north end N51⁰39’ W124⁰21’; south end N51⁰29’ W124⁰21’), Tsilhqot’in National Government, begins at the scenic Tatlayoko Lake valley, then follows the crest of the Potato Range. Alpine areas are a harvest area for wild potatoes.

Qwalimak/Upper Birkenhead Conservancy (N50⁰35’ W122⁰53’) is 4,888 ha protecting the cultural values of the Lil’wat Nation. Present are mountain goats, old growth forest, and salmon runs. The area adjoins Birkenhead Provincial Park.

Seton Portage Historic Provincial Park (N50ᵒ42’ W122ᵒ17’) is 0.7 ha on the Seton River between Seton and Anderson Lakes. The site commemorates the first railway in British Columbia, 1861.

Skihist Ecological Reserve (N50⁰16’ W121⁰31’) is 36 ha located 5 km northeast of Lytton on the Thompson River, adjacent to Route 1. An undisturbed ponderosa pine-grassland is located where the river canyon cuts through the northern end of the Cascade Range.

Skihist Provincial Park (N50⁰15’ W121⁰31’) is 386 ha located 8 km east of Lytton on the Thompson River. There are 8 km of trails to canyon overlooks. Remnants of the Cariboo Wagon Road, built 1862-1865, are in the park.

Skwaha Lake Ecological Reserve (N50⁰24’ W121⁰30’) is 850 ha located 11 km west of Spences Bridge. The reserve protects Douglas fir and montane spruce, wildflowers and scattered ponderosa pine.

Soap Lake Ecological Reserve (N50⁰23’ W121⁰19’) is 884 ha located 3 km southeast of Spences Bridge. The 9-ha alkaline lake has a pH of 9.1. There are encrusted salts adjoining the lake. The area protects plants adapted to high alkalinity.

Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park is a 107,191-ha roadless area jointly managed by BC Parks and the Lytton First Nation. The park boundary encompasses the entire watershed of the Stein River, a scenic and culturally significant resource.  The park is primarily in the Cascade Mountains Leeward forests with a small portion in the southwest in the British Columbia Mainland Coastal forests ecoregion. Along the Stein River are rock art paintings, especially at Asking Rock near the main trailhead. There are 150 km of trails. From the trailhead near Lytton (N50ᵒ16’ W121ᵒ38’), a trail winds upstream to Cottonwood Falls (N50ᵒ19’ W121ᵒ58’). From there, one trail ascends Blowdown Pass (N50ᵒ22’ W122ᵒ9’) and a second follows the river upstream to Tundra Lake (N50ᵒ9’ W122ᵒ16’) before exiting the park. A route called the Stein Traverse follows high mountains and is only recommended from mid-July through Mid-September.

Ts’il?os Provincial Park is 233,240 ha of mountains, glaciers, alpine meadows and waterfalls. The northern access from Tatla Lake (N51ᵒ37’ W124ᵒ9’) is within the Fraser Plateau and Basin ecoregion. This northern portion of the park is subject to the landrights of the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The eastern access to Chilko Lake (N51ᵒ25’ W124ᵒ7’) is from Hanceville.  The remote southern portions include the Lord River (N51ᵒ0’ W123ᵒ35’). The park is managed under a Memorandum of Agreement with the Yeni Gwet’in Nation. Access is by road from Williams Lake (160 km). Most of the park is in the Cascade Mountains Leeward Forests ecoregion (NA 507). The park includes Chilko Lake, the largest high-elevation freshwater lake in Canada. Other features are the Chilcotin Range, Friendly Peak, Tchaikazan River, and Five Brothers Peaks. Bishop Run Provincial Park adjoins the property on the south.

Tweedsmuir Provincial Park is 989,616 ha, an immense area mostly in the Fraser Plateau and Basin. The southern part of the park is in the Cascade Mountains leeward forests ecoregion, and the western edge is in the British Columbia mainland coastal forest ecoregion. The south end of the park is at Knot Lake (N51⁰54’ W125⁰43’) and the north end is at Ootsa Lake (N53⁰49’ W126⁰25’). In the Cascade Mountains Leeward forests portion of the park, south of Route 20, a trail leads to Hunlen Falls (N52⁰17’ W125⁰46’) and the Turner Lakes chain, a canoe route. Caribou Mountain, another hiking area, is also in this ecoregion. Access to the park is 400 km west of Williams Lake on Route 20. After entering the park from the east, Route 20 descends 4,000 feet in 16 km.

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