Totem pole at ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum (Totem pole at ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum (Tom Ryan photo)
New Hazelton and the surrounding communities that make up the Hazeltons are a hidden gem in Northern British Columbia.
Unbeknownst to travellers who fail to turn off Highway 16 to explore, the land and communities here are marked by a very much alive First Nations culture, a warm spirit, and serene natural beauty teeming with diverse wildlife.
Various activities including boating, hiking and heli-skiing. Fishing on the many steelhead and salmon rivers in the area is hugely popular here. Aboriginal and cultural sites, such as world renowned ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum, the impressive Hagwilget Bridge and Canyon, as well as major local events such as the Kispiox Valley Rodeo and Music Festival also draw many visitors to the area. Spend a few days driving and exploring the communities and attractions to appreciate the unique charm of each.
The Hazeltons officially consist of eight communities in Northwest BC, on or near Highway 16. The communities – a mixture of municipalities, unincorporated settlements and First Nation villages – are flanked by Terrace in the north and Smithers in the south.
The communities include New Hazelton (population: 729), Hazelton Village (also referred to as Old Hazelton; population: 362), South Hazelton (population: 300), Kispiox Village (population: 300), Glen Vowell (population: 234), Gitanmaax (population: 838), Hagwilget (population: 239) and Two Mile (population: 650). Some are close together, and others are more rural. Several First Nations communities further north along Highway 16 can also be grouped with the Hazeltons. These include Gitsegukla (population: 479), Giwangak (population: 549), Kitwanga (population: 200), and Gitanyow (population: 422).
Most of the communities have a few small stores and businesses, but New Hazelton is the service hub, with greater accommodation and dining options.
About the Community
A large part of the population throughout the New Hazelton area is First Nations, mostly Gitxsan, though Wet’suwet’en also live in the area. The majority of the Hazeltons is Gitxsan territory, which consists of approximately 28,000sq km/10,810sq mi.
Hazelton residents are resilient, with many living and working closely and feeling a connection with the land and rivers. Famous locals include 2008 Olympic gold medal winner wrestler Carol Huynh, and local legend Simon Gunanoot. Gunanoot was a prosperous Gitxsan merchant who was charged with the murder of two white men in the early 1900s. Fearing an unfair trial, he and his family hid in the Hazelton wilderness for more than 13 years before he was pardoned.
Where to Begin
The best places to go for information are the New Hazelton Visitor Centre on Highway 16, the small tourist kiosk on the river in Hazelton Village, and the Kispiox Information and Cultural Centre. To navigate and understand how communities are laid out together and individually in the New Hazelton area, pick up the comprehensive tear-away map provided by the Regional District of Kitimat Stikine.
Photo: Linda Bradley; Information Courtesy of HelloBC