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I am in desperate need to get this plea out to anyone who may be planning on visiting Spatsizi Park

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Spatsizi Plateau Wilderness Park is the third largest park in BC, after Tweedsmuir and Tatshenshini. Long regarded as BC's Serengeti, Spatsizi provides vital habitat for large mammals. Ensuring the long-term health and viability of this habitat and providing a prime example of the concept of Conservation Biology, Spatsizi Park links with several other wilderness areas including Stikine River Provincial Park to the north and west, Mount Edziza Park to the west, and Tatlatui Provincial Park to the south-east. The park encompasses over 656,785 ha (1.6 million acres) and three major vegetation zones: Alpine Tundra, Spruce-Willow Birch, and Boreal White and Black Spruce forest. Spatsizi spans two major physiographic regions as well, the huge expanse of Spatsizi Plateau and the Eaglenest Range.

"Long regarded as BC's Serengeti, Spatsizi provides vital habitat for large mammals."


Spatsizi is located 320 km (200 mi) north of Smithers, east of the village of Iskut, off of the Stewart-Cassiar Highway.

Click on the map to view an enlargement


Known as British Columbia's Serengeti, Spatsizi contains some of the most spectacular wildlife populations in BC and exemplifies a healthy, intact predator prey system of the sort that once dominated the entire North American continent. The diversity and numbers of wildlife here are of global importance. The high country is the heart of BC's Stone sheep range. A northern thin-horn relative of the Rocky Mountain bighorn, they hang out in bands on the ridgelines where winds keep the grasses exposed throughout winter.

A species of great biological importance on the plateau is the grizzly bear. During winter these bears make their dens high in the alpine, re-emerging as the snow recedes in spring to nibble on fresh plant growth in the valleys. Then, in summer, they move higher, foraging on subalpine cow parsley and grasses, occasionally tearing the ground apart in search of ground squirrels or marmots. In autumn they gorge on berries. Of course, grizzly bear are opportunists, and if they can scavenge a dead animal or scare another predator off its kill, they will. Weighing in at 230 kg (500 pounds) or more, especially in fall when they accumulate layers of fat in preparation for hibernation, they can run as fast as a horse, making them a force to be reckoned with.

"Known as British Columbia's Serengeti, Spatsizi contains some of the most spectacular wildlife populations in BC and exemplifies a healthy, intact predator prey system of the sort that once dominated the entire North American continent."

Spatsizi's meadowed expanses are also home to 3,000 Osborn caribou - the largest herd in British Columbia. These marvellous creatures, with their great, sweeping antlers, graze the alpine and retreat to summer snow patches when the heat or mosquitoes become intolerable for them. The cliffs on the higher peaks and the rims of river valleys are home to mountain goats.

In the valleys, rivers meander through wetlands and spruce, creating moose heaven. As a result, this member of the deer family is found here in abundance. In winter, when the sheltered valleys collect deeper snow, moose are still able to move around on their long legs. Frequently they are tracked by wolves, whose populations in the area are also healthy because the Spatsizi Wilderness is large enough to maintain a natural balance between predator and prey, allowing both to thrive.

The wildlife wealth of Spatsizi is legendary. What makes the area so rich is not just the productivity of the habitat - there is food here for all levels of the food chain, from grazers to top carnivores - but also the vastness of the habitat. Predators cannot survive unless there is sufficient prey to support them. Therefore unless there is enough prey habitat in an area, the entire food web may collapse. Large grazing animals need lots of space, as they require a considerable food supply in the course of a year to keep their body weight up and to endure the hard winter weather. Plant-eating animals live in herds to reduce the threat of predators, thus increasing their impact on the land.

The way Nature prevents overuse of habitat is to distribute grazing across large ranges. Constantly on the move, herds roam extensively throughout the year, providing the land time to recover. As a result, the only places capable of supporting large populations of herbivores and their carnivorous predators are those, like the Spatsizi, that offer expanses of territory to forage. Unfortunately, due to the development of the land for human activities, such large wild expanses of quality habitat have become very rare. The result has been drastic reductions in wildlife populations worldwide. Spatsizi provides one of the few remaining very large, high quality refuges for wildlife.

"The wildlife wealth of Spatsizi is legendary."


Spatsizi's diversity of wildlife and its scenic beauty make it a wilderness traveller's paradise. Recreational opportunities include canoeing expeditions on the Spatsizi, rafting on the Stikine River, horseback riding on high plateaus, or flyfishing trips to the backcountry rivers and lakes. The Stikine River is one of the last great wild rivers in North America and is popular with expert wilderness canoeists. Alternatively, the Spatsizi River provides a less demanding yet extremely scenic river trip. The area teems with wildlife and birds. More than 140 species of birds including horned larks, gyrfalcons, and ptarmigans are found in Spatsizi.

The rivers and lakes contain abundances of rainbow trout, Arctic grayling, bull trout, char, lake trout, and white fish. Gladys Lake Ecological Reserve, completely surrounded by Spatsizi Park, is a popular hiking area for viewing Stone sheep and mountain goats. Fall is a favourite time to visit Spatsizi. This is rutting time for the woodland caribou, and the dwarf birch trees provide a spectacular show of yellow, orange and red. Flightseeing tours of the park can also be arranged.

Coldfish Lake has seven cabins and a cookhouse available to the public for up to seven days at a time. Private lodges outside the park boundaries provide more luxurious accommodation.

"Spatsizi's diversity of wildlife, as well as its scenic beauty, make it a wilderness traveller's paradise."


Spatsizi was first inhabited by the Tahltan Native peoples, in whose language "Spatsizi" means "land of the red goat". This name describes the habit of the local mountain goats to roll in the iron oxide rich soils high up on cliff ledges, thereby staining their normally white coats red. In 1926, the Hyland brothers established posts on the Spatsizi River and upstream where it joins the Stikine to trade with native fur trappers. In 1948 guide outfitter Tommy Walker set up hunting and fishing camps in the area. Walker quickly saw the exceptional wildlife qualities of the area and was the first to propose that Spatsizi should be preserved. Although Walker continued to communicate his conservation desires for the area he did so, it seemed, to no avail. Government was not interested and the area was just too far north for the public to rally to the idea at the time. He was successful however in stirring up strong and ongoing support for Spatsizi Park among the membership of the BC Wildlife Federation.

Then in the early 1970s Dr. Vladamir Krajina, who invented the ecological biogeoclimatic zones classification system, visited Spatsizi and was very excited by what he saw. Then university student Ric Careless (now Executive Director of BC Spaces for Nature) met Dr. Krajina and became convinced by Krajina that the area should be protected. Shortly thereafter Careless began working for the BC Cabinet, in the Environment Landuse Secretariat (ELUS). Here Careless got together with Bristol Foster - a leading BC zoologist and the head of the BC Ecological Reserves Branch. Together they decided to convince the Cabinet to create an exceptionally large protected area. The area they envisioned would protect the whole Spatsizi Plateau and its extraordinary wildlife populations. The intent was to preserve an area large enough to enable the predator-prey wildlife system to continue to operate intact. At the core they envisioned that the most crucial part of the Stone sheep habitat would be protected as an Ecological Reserve to enable scientific study.

"The intent was to preserve an area large enough to enable the predator-prey wildlife system to continue to operate intact."

In mid-1975 Careless and Foster managed to convince then Resources Minister Bob Williams to agree to study the feasibility of creating the park. However shortly thereafter, in the fall of that year, the government called a snap election. Careless approached Minister Williams and suggested that the Minister could make an announcement for the election, the creation of Spatsizi Park. Williams agreed and gave Careless the approval to draft the Legislative Order for Cabinet. Cabinet met 5 days before the election and designated Spatsizi Park, about 708,000 hectares (1.75 million acres) at the time. The new park came into existence on December 3, 1975. It was the first park in BC to be created with the prime goal of protection on extensive intact wildlife ecosystems.

The result of the election was a change in government, to one not so interested in wilderness preservation. Some conservationists feared therefore that the newly created park was in jeopardy. Strangely, it was a violation of the Wildlife Act by illegal hunting of the park's prized wildlife that ended up securing the park for all time. The guide outfitter who had purchased Tommy Walker's guiding territory was charged for 116 Wildlife Act violations, including shooting of non-game species (including porcupine and trumpeter swans) and taking undersized animals.

Rosemary Fox of the Smither's Sierra Club was the whistle-blower, and she made sure media all over the province picked up the story. Since Spatsizi had been the first BC Park created specifically to protect a large predator prey ecosystem, the idea that it could be the site of such major wildlife act transgressions quickly caught both the media and public's attention. A Fish and Wildlife inquiry resulted, and eventually led to a formal review of not just the violations in Spatsizi, but to the administration of BC's fish and wildlife resources in general. This resulted in heightened public concern that led to reforms in wildlife management. As well, given the attention and public support this controversy had attracted, it became evident that the new government would not dismantle Spatsizi.

"The new park came into existence on December 3, 1975. It was the first park in BC to be created with the prime goal of protection on extensive intact wildlife ecosystems."

When Spatsizi's initial boundaries were laid out in the mid-70s there was limited information and time available. Hence, some key areas were overlooked and omitted. In the 1980s there was a successful effort to expand the park to include some of the key valley bottom lands along the Stikine River, upstream of Highway 37. These additions included key winter wildlife habitat, especially for caribou. But even with these additions the park was still missing some significant areas farther north and east of the Stikine River. In the later 80s, Grant Copland of Valhalla Society along with the Friends of the Stikine proposed another, larger expansion and a link to the impressive Grand Canyon of the Stikine (downstream of Highway 37). The Grand Canyon section was added as a Recreation Area in the mid-1980s but the land north and east of the Upper Stikine had to wait until the Cassiar Iskut-Stikine Land and Resource Management Plan was negotiated at the end of the 1990s.

When the landuse plan was being negotiated there was an initial suggestion by some in the mining industry that there should be a dismantling of the Stikine River Recreation Area. In response BC Spaces for Nature got involved along with Friends of the Stikine to ensure its continued protection. Gil Arnold of BC Spaces for Nature was particularly involved as a negotiator, representing the Friends of Stikine, and working closely with the Tahltan First Nations (especially their negotiator Glenda Ferris), Ray Collingwood (the present guide outfitter in the area), and Rosemary Fox of the Sierra Club. Together this grouping, along with local interest groups, succeeded in negotiating an expansion to the north and east of Spatsizi Park. This came through in 2001, finally designating Spatsizi as a full Class A Provincial Park. This culminated many years of consistent citizen action to protect the nationally and internationally significant ecosystems of Spatsizi, thus ensuring the long-term future of the area's extraordinary wildlife populations.

A further buffering of this Park has been achieved by surrounding Spatsizi Park with Special Management Zones (SMZ). This vast park/buffer zone complex truly exemplifies how a large conservation area should be protected, according to Conservation Biology principles.

"As a result of many years of consistent citizen action the nationally and internationally significance ecosystems of Spatsizi are fundamentally all in protection."

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