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Bella Coola and the West Chilcotin: Prairies to Ocean

  1. 2021
    Monday, June 21, 2021 to Tuesday, June 29, 2021
    Tour Duration: 
    9 days
    Tour Starts/Ends: 
    Start: Vancouver End: Bella Coola
Itinerary View Short Itinerary

Day 1: Meet in North Vancouver mid-morning

Drive up the Sea-to-Sky, arrive in Pemberton and walk One Mile Lake boardwalk. Coffee shop lunch to go then continue on over the Duffy Lake Road stopping for the scenery and looking for dippers. Night in Lillooet at fairly budget hotel.

Day 2: Fraser River

Here on the banks of the mighty Fraser River we can explore some diverse birding that is similar to the Okanagan Valley. We can hopefully spot a Golden Eagle nest and find some roosting owls, not to mention find some grassland specialties such as Long-billed Curlew. The scenery is spectacular.  In the afternoon, we roll further north taking the more obscure route up to Williams Lake. Night at in Williams Lake.

Days 3 and 4: South Chilcotin

We start at Scout Island near the hotel: a great place for riparian birds. We’ll probably see Red Foxes here, not to mention Western Grebes out on the namesake lake. After refreshing back at the hotel, we gear up for a drive out to Becher’s Prairie, which is a fascinating matrix of ponds and grasslands that harbour almost every species of breeding duck in BC, some shorebirds, and goodies like Sharp-tailed Grouse and Rusty Blackbird. 

In the afternoon we will visit Farwell Canyon and its nesting Prairie Falcons. There are also Flammulated Owls and Common Poorwills down by the Fraser River. 

Day 5: West Chilcotin

We head further down Highway 20 into the West Chilcotin, stopping to observe any lingering migrants such as shorebirds or swans on some of the alkali lakes. This is the breeding area for American White Pelicans and there should be some visible without having to drive all the way to Stum Lake (the only actual place they breed). With luck, we’ll spot a moose.

We turn drive into one of the most beautiful valleys in all of British Columbia: Tatlayoko Lake. This area has spectacular scenery but there is also nice wildlife to view including the possibility of seeing a grizzly munching grass in a meadow. There is a bird observatory that doesn’t open until Aug but it has good birds including American Redstart, Purple Finch, Dusky Grouse, Northern Waterthrush and some other species not found in the Lower Mainland. Nearby Eagle Lake has breeding Arctic Terns!

In the evening we can drive to Anaheim Lake to try for a remnant population of Yellow Rail. This area has some avifauna similar to northern B.C.

Day 6: Nimpo Lake to Hagensborg

This morning we can sit on a dock on the shores of beautiful Nimpo Lake for some chill time.

Then we head to Heckman Pass which, depending on snow, has relatively accessible birding for some awesome species including Willow Ptarmigan, Gray-cheeked Thrush, and possibly even American Golden-Plover.

There’s no infrastructure up here so we need to keep moving down the notorious “Hill” into the Bella Coola Valley. In the next sixty kilometers we’ll traverse from the subalpine into relatively dry old-growth Douglas Fir into very wet Cedar-Hemlock forest.

Days 7 and 8: Bella Coola

We’ll have a look near the lodge for grizzlies (right now they are on lawns and open areas) then take a trip to Snootli Regional Park to walk among the giant cedar trees. We can visit the local museum and walk a trail that has 3,000 yr old petroglyphs on trailside rocks. 

Day 9: Departure

The tour will conclude after breakfast. 

Options for returning home include the ferry or a more direct route home via Hope (12 hr Bella Coola to Vancouver).