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The Hazelton Route

By Walter Wilson

We read with interest and appreciation much of Mr. Dewey Bullock's article, "The Coming Highway to Alaska," in the December issue of ALASKA LIFE.  In the comparatively short period of three years he has absorbed considerable knowledge of portions of our beloved Northland, and he presents this information, along with other pertinent data, with good effect.

Although he seaways are again safe, there appears to be widespread and unanimous agreement -- north and south of the line -- on the need of a practical highway connection from the present northern central British Columbia system of roads to Alaska and points between.  Mr. Bullock, however, is rather imperative about the project he advocates when he states "it is an essential necessity" and authoritatively requires that construction begin forthwith.

The highway to Alaska, north of the British Columbia boundary has already been constructed and the missing link between the State of Washington and that highway must necessarily pass through and is of vital moment to British Columbia.  A number of projects have been suggested, three of which are outstanding.  The common objective of all three may be considered as the town of Whitehorse in Yukon Territory.  First there is the original route, that of immemorial travel of immigrants from Asia to this continent and which is now known as the "Hazelton Whitehorse project."  The route follows the great valley immediately east of the Coast Range.  Second is the "safe" interior route proposed by the International Highway Commission, Pearl Harbor period, and which with some variation is advocated by Mr. Bullock.  This route follows a succession of valleys merging into the western Stikine Mountains.  The third is the "B" route from Prince George to Watson Lake which follows a deep, comparatively narrow valley between the Rockies and the series of ranges known as the Stikine Mountains.  Mr. Bullock has mentioned these in his article.

Practically all of northern British Columbia has been surveyed sufficiently, and contoured, for general mapping purposes.  The more exacting surveys required for details of these roads are well under way.  The Hon. John Hart, Premier of British Columbia, intimated late in November, 1943, that his government would not make a decision on any one of these projects until all three had been surveyed.  In October, 1944, Mr. Hart gave out a press release which stated that these surveys will be completed by next fall.  Both of these statements received quite wide publicity in the press.

Many who live in northern central British Columbia have made an intensive study of the terrain through which these three projects pass, a wealth of material being available in maps issued by the Lands and Mining Departments and scores of prospectors, trappers, guides, etc. who cover this country regularly.  From Vanderhoof west to and including Prince Rupert, all of the residents -- through Boards of Trade, Chambers of Commerce, institutes, associations, etc. -- have gone on record as favoring the Hazelton-Whitehorse project.

The considered verdict of these people is that the Hazelton project is incomparably superior to any of the others in economical possibilities.  The grades are good, if not better, than the other two projects throughout, and the distance to be covered being shorter, the construction costs would be less.  There are no swamps on this route, rock-work is negligible, and thee is but one engineering problem -- that of crossing the Stikine River near the mouth of the Tahltan River, where a 500-foot suspension bridge between opposing cliffs is required.  We are confident that the survey will prove that it is the best route through British Columbia to the Yukon and Alaska, and also to the coast and the panhandle.  The building of 550 or 700 miles of new highway is a huge job, one not to be decided upon or undertaken without complete and impartial data upon which reasoned conclusions may be drawn.  We shall await the decision of our premier ad accept it as final.

It is presumed that the words with which Mr. Bullock concludes his article "greed, jealousy, and suspicion" apply to the Rock Mountain Trench or "B" route, which does not appear to be a live issue any more.  It was the projection of this route that brought the west up in arms.  This costly road, if constructed, would have meant that all the country and people west of Prince George would have been definitely cut off for decades from any further roads or connections to the great country to the north of us, and which the "B" route would not have developed.  Much, too, of the business accounting would have one east, Prince George Being over 12 hours closer by rail to Edmonton than it is to Vancouver, with considerable cheaper freight rate.

There is much in the article with which we are not in accord.  Mr. Bullock's plea for his project is based largely on a claim that it would open new mineral country that lacks, and to wish it would give transportation facilities.

The first half of the 80 miles from Prince George to Fort St. James is through timbered country that has been logged for jack pine railway ties, the second half largely through burned heavy-windfall country.

At Fort St. James, Bullock's project enters the orbit of the famed Vanderhoof-Manson Creek road, which by the way, has a graveled branch road 24 feet wide to the Pinchi Lake Mercury Mine.  All of this mercury-bearing area is tributary to and very well served by this Vanderhoof-Manson Creek road.  From this road, which has also a great system of connecting waterways, it is a simple matter to construct short laterals to any new discoveries.  The Takla Lake, Ominica and Osilinka River watersheds are tributary to this Vanderhoof road.  Beyond Manson Creek a good road continues to Germanson Landing  on the Ominica River.  From this point a tractor road is in use to Old Hougen, about 40 miles up the river, where it meets a car road from Takla Lake Landing.

From Old Hougen a tractor road connects with Aiken Lake where the Consolidated Mining Company is operating.  There is a good pack-horse trail from this point to Thutade Lake which could be easily cleared for a road if warranted.  Vanderhoof is on the Canadian National Railway and it was through the efforts of this town the above system of roads were constructed and upon which she is dependent.  With natural extensions they amply suffice for the requirements of this territory.  So far, Mr. Bullock's proposition simply amounts to placing Vanderhoof and Prince George in competition in this area, something the latter has never sought.  It further means the building of over 200 miles of entirely new road and laterals in a country with well-planned roads already constructed.

Further and so far, Mr. Bullock's project closely parallels the Canadian National Railway and highway between Prince George and Prince Rupert but separated by a series of intervening great lakes.  The Prince Rupert-Hazelton western portion was constructed, and officially opened at Terrace last September.  This highway will be a transcontinental as soon as the portion between Prince George and Jasper, now well under way, is completed.  A great part of this highway is already up to standard and long sections are being widened and straightened each year by the combined efforts of the Dominion and Provincial Governments.  This railway and highway traverse the great valleys of the Nechako, Endako, Bulkley, and Skeena Rivers.  Agriculturally, these valleys could easily support 50,000 people, and already there are many small, modernly equipped towns and villages throughout their lengths.

Beyond the watershed of Takla Lake, Mr. Bullock's project breaks into and traverses the Skeena River watershed.  The Skeena River flows west, entering the Pacific at Prince Rupert.  Definitely, this entire western zone can be best served by outlet to the coast.  Heavy industry, which would develop from the opening and operation of base metal mines must go to seaboard.  So also must the coal of the great Groundhog anthracite area.  It would be absurd to even consider taking these produce east to Prince George.  It is 470 miles by rail from Prince George to Prince Rupert, its nearest port.  Nor would a connecting road to the near north of the existing highway and railroad be of any particular value.  Shorter connections from points farther west would necessarily be built from the railway to bring in machinery and supplies.  New Hazelton, on the Canadian National Railway above Hazelton, the farthest north point, is infinitely more suitable.  The proximity of the railway at this point to the Groundhog, which is the biggest industrial possibility on this continent is a decisive factor in considering the construction of any road or railway to the North.

There are three possible and practicable connections to the Groundhog.  They are New Hazelton, Kitwanga below Skeena Crossing, or Stewart on Portland Canal.  New Hazelton is 180 miles east of Prince Rupert.  There is a railway grade from New Hazelton to the heart of the Groundhog.  Roughly, 100 miles of construction would reach the field and approximately 150 miles from Prince George to the Groundhog.  The entire extent of the Groundhog has not yet been determined but excellent working seams of anthracite.  (Campbell-Johnson of Vancouver opened a 20-foot vein) and semi-anthracite are known to underlie 100 square miles, and the estimated capacity of this area has been placed by mining engineers and geologists at 43 million tons per square mile.  Samples averaged 84 to 85 percent fixed carbon, B.T.U. 14318.  All claims in the Groundhog have now been cancelled by the British Columbia Government, but large holdings were at one time in the hands of interests in this country; Germany capital had big interests; Lord Rhonda, the great Welsh coal magnate, held a large area and secured a railway charter in order to tap from Kitemat on Douglas Channel.  The death of Lord Rhonda and the starting of the last World War put a quietus on these undertakings.  A railway to the Groundhog from New Hazelton could be extended to Whitehorse should conditions warrant.  In the meantime, British Columbia and the western states are shipping in huge quantities of coal from the east, with unlimited and readily accessible supplies on our doorstep, as it were.

A very short description of the Hazelton project might be in order.  It leaves the main highway a short distance beyond the beautiful $275,000 high suspension bridge across the Bulkley River at Hagwilget Canyon at an elevation of 1000 feet and follows the Kispiox River to its south and height of land, elevation 1300 feet.  There is a choice of routes from this point.  One is to head due north across the Nass River and join the Skeena River at the mouth of Beirnes Creek, then swing back to our general line of travel, following the Little Klappan River valley where horses are wintered out.  The grades are very easy, although 4000-foot elevation is reached at the head of the Skeena.  The alternate route continues with the more general westerly trend, dropping gently down to and following the Nass River basin to the main tributary, the Bell Irving River, which it follows to its source.  We cross the divide, elevation 2000 feet, and reach the Iskut River valley and follow this river to its source, over its height of land, elevation indefinite but somewhere between 2700 and 3000 feet, and reach the Klastine River.  The projected road from Port St. James joins our road near this point, also the alternative Hazelton route.

Location engineers can decide whether it is better to follow the Kalstin to the Stikine River or take the plateau by Buckley Lake to reach the Stikine River and bridge.  Opinions differ as to which is the better.

Once across the Stikine there is again a choice of routes.  Each must be thoroughly examined by competent location engineers.  One takes the Tuya River, branching to the left by one of the lower tributaries to reach and follow a plateau to the village of Atlin.  The alternative and more generally favored route is to follow the Tahltan River to its headwaters, swing in to the Shesley River, follow the McDonald Trail across the Dudidentu River and continue north to Nahlin.  From Nahlin one then travels northwest to Nakina, crossing a height of land, elevation 2650 feet, on the way.  A few miles beyond Nakina we join a road leading into Atlin, follow on through Atlin tow and continue north along the east shore of Atlin Lake, cross Lubbock River and follow the west bank of Little Atlin Lake, at the head of which we join the Alaska Highway, a few miles east of Tagish village and about 250 miles west of Watson Lake, where the "B" project connects with the Alaska Highway.  The approximate distance from Hazelton to Whitehorse is 550 miles; the cost, road or rail, several million dollars less than Mr. Bullock's project.

It might be noted that the Hazelton project would give access and outlet to many billions of feet of merchantable spruce, hemlock an other timber suitable for lumber and also mining timbers -- more, as a matter of face, than the other two roads combined could produce.  The Coast Range carries the same geological formation on its eastern slopes as at the Premier Mine above Steward on its western slopes.  There is room for, and the probability of, discovery of several "Premiers" and other mines on these eastern flanks which are at present practically inaccessible.  Laterals from the Hazelton route would give access and outlet.  The bringing into production of the Groundhog would bring many and great industries to the coast and a beneficial influence that would be felt from "Frisco" to Vancouver to Nome.  The agricultural land, with its soft healthy climate, is eminently suitable for soldier and other settlements.  With mining and logging under way there would be unlimited market for all produce.  The potion of a road to the Yukon and Alaska, the Hazelton-Whitehorse project, is a big undertaking in itself but it is a mere gateway to infinitely vaster possibilities.





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