BC RVing: Wells Gray Park to Williams Lake

In my last post, I had just left Wells Gray Provincial Park on Saturday, October 3rd, day 25 of the trip. Saturday and Sunday were mainly visits with friends from high school near 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, but I got some touring done as well, notably to Farwell Canyon to the west of Williams Lake.

The roads travelled on most days during this trip have been easy to locate on a map, but as these 2 days are on Roads Less Travelled, here’s a map. If you click on it, an interactive map of the route opens in a new window.

From Wells Gray, the basic route was south on the park road to Highway 5, south on Highway 5, west on Highway 24 and Horse Lake Road, then north on Highway 97. The first photo shows Highway 24 just west of Little Fort at 10:50. The new winter-tire signs are seen everywhere in BC now – all-season tires are no longer acceptable.

BC Highway 24 just west of Little Fort
The highway soon starts climbing, and the climb is both very long and very steep. I haven’t been able to find stats on it, but I’d guess the steepest part to be about 8 km (5 miles) long and perhaps 12%.

Steep climb on BC Hwy 24
The Lac des Roches rest area, listed on the official BC rest area map as the MacDonald rest area, is 46 km from Little Fort. By that point, I’d seen less than a dozen other vehicles – yes, it’s my kind of highway. The large sign there is the first major promo I’d seen of the highway as “The Fishing Highway“.

Lac des Roches rest area on BC Hwy 24, The Fishing Highway
Lac des Roches from the rest area, which was a great place to walk the dogs. Although the skies threatened to drop rain on us, none fell.

Lac des Roches, BC
Visits with long-time friends are never often enough or long enough, but seeing Marky and her husband at Horse Lake was wonderful. On Sunday, we went to a charming cafe at the nearby community of Lone Butte, where there is indeed a lone butte 🙂

Just before noon, the kids and I were back on the road, headed west towards Highway 97 on the Horse Lake Road.

Horse Lake Road, BC
At 12:45, we were just north of 100 Mile House on Highway 97, which is the longest provincial highway in Canada, stretching 2,110 km (1,311 mi) from the southern border with Washington to the northern border with the Yukon Territory. Along its length, various sections are known as the Okanagan Highway, the Cariboo Highway, the John Hart Highway, and the Alaska Highway.

BC Highway 97 just north of 100 Mile House
I arrived at Sharon’s home just outside Williams Lake at noon, and as at Marky’s, was able to camp on her acreage. She’s done a great job of re-connecting with many of the people we went to school with, and has endless stories. Within a couple of hours we were out touring, though, west on Highway 20 to some places that Sharon knew I’d enjoy. Our first stop was at the bridge that carries Highway 20, which ends at Bella Coola, over the Fraser River.

BC Highway 20 bridge over the Fraser River
Looking up the Fraser River from the bridge.

Fraser River west of Williams Lake
Much of the country we travelled through is in the Interior Douglas Fir Biogeoclimatic Zone, the second warmest forest zone in the interior, which has a fairly wide variety of vegetation. Little of it is untouched by humans, primarily from logging, mining, and ranching. At lower elevations, the Bunchgrass Biogeoclimatic zone is a grassland zone that’s important to California bighorn sheep, burrowing owl, white-tailed deer, and sharp-tailed grouse.

BC's Interior Douglas Fir Biogeoclimatic Zone
The light was right to get a photo of dramatic Doc English Bluff, which we’d return to at the end of the day (and which I got to the summit of 🙂 ).

Doc English Bluff, west of Williams Lake, BC
This is really pretty country, and is certainly on the list to spend much more time in. Over 40 years ago, I drove most of Highway 20, but got stopped by a landslide before starting down towards the coast at Bella Coola, and for no particular reason, hadn’t been back.

BC Highway 20 west of Williams Lake
Just before reaching Riske Creek, we turned south on the Farwell Canyon Road, which crosses mostly open rangeland. The 3 trucks coming in this photo were the exception – there was very little traffic.

Farwell Canyon Road, west of Williams Lake, BC
A stereotypical Cariboo/Chilcotin Country scene along the Farwell Canyon Road. Sharon stopped so I could get some photos, but none of our bovine neighbours wanted to chat 🙂

Cows along Farwell Canyon Road, west of Williams Lake, BC
We’d be stopping at the Chilcotin River crossing, but on the west side of the river, the Farwell Canyon Road climbs back up and continues for many miles.

BC's remote Farwell Canyon Road
As the road drops down towards the Chilcotin River, a hiking trail offers access to a large sand dune system above Farwell Canyon. At the trailhead is a memorial to Wayne Dale Fisher, a 17-year-old cowboy from the Gang Ranch who was killed in a flash flood near here in 1962.

Hiking trail to Farwell Canyon sand dunes in BC
Looking back at the bridge over the Chilcotin River after crossing it.

Farwell Canyon Road bridge over the Chilcotin River
Just past the bridge, a short side road goes to a plateau which offers great views of the Chilcotin River and Farwell Canyon. First, a look back at the bridge.

Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon
Farwell Canyon and its dramatic hoodoos (there are also pictographs, though we didn’t get to them). Although there are lots of photos of Farwell Canyon online, little has been written about it. I did discover that the canyon is named for Gordon “Mike” Farwell, who established the Pothole Ranch there in 1912.

Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon

Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon
Looking upriver, the Pothole Ranch could be seen.

Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon

Abandoned ranch along the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon
The old ranch site offered even better photos of the river and canyon.

Abandoned ranch along the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon

Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon
Stark and beautiful.

Farwell Canyon, BC
The ranch house and outbuildings are in good condition thanks to the very dry climate, much like the Yukon.

Abandoned ranch along the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon
The root and meat cellar is large enough to have supplied food for a large crew of ranch hands at one time.

Abandoned ranch along the Chilcotin River at Farwell Canyon
It was well after 4:00 when we pulled away from Farwell Canyon (having a photographer along makes keeping to any sort of tour schedule difficult!), but nearby Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park was our next destination. There were many places along the road where I wished that we’d brought the Tracker, which has much higher clearance.

The road to Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park in BC
I can explore along roads like this for days. A couple we met said that they had found about 30 California bighorn sheep near the end of the road, but that would just be a bonus, not a reason to continue.

The road to BC's Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park
Nearing the end of the road, at 5:00 – the Fraser River is in the canyon ahead.

BC's Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park
The Fraser River from the end of the road. Any sheep that had been here were out of sight by the time we arrived.

Fraser River at the Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park
The colour of the light at 6:15, just before sunset, was lovely, and prompted a couple of stops.

Cows along the Farwell Canyon Road
It was getting dark by the time we got back to the small Doc English Bluff Ecological Reserve, but Sharon said that the steep hike to the top of the bluff offered superb views, and she was right. There was only time to snap a few shots and look briefly and unsuccessfully for a unique rock formation she told me about (she waited at the car), and by the time I got down at about 7:15, it was dark.

We had plans to do a bit more touring the next morning and visit the local animal shelter, but a call from home caused me to cancel those plans and head straight home, though home was 1,850 km (1,150 mi) away yet. It had been a wonderful 20 hours, though.


BC RVing: Wells Gray Park to Williams Lake — 6 Comments

  1. These photos are awesome Murray, I really enjoyed them. In 1971 I took that same journey and got lost, no gps then. Ended up on the backside of Quesnel early in the morning the next day. My sister and brother in law at the time lived in Soda Creek on the west side of the river near the friction ferry that is now out of commission.

    Thanks, again. Glad you enjoyed your visit with Sharon.


    • Thanks, Peg. As much as the GPS occasionally leads me astray, it’s much more often a help. That was the first two of many such visits with high school friends, I hope.

  2. You just missed where I grew up Murray…. Forest Grove is a little community on the road to the western side of Wells Gray.

  3. Wow, what a different look from any of your normal travels… do you think you could post a map again that shows the entire trip w segments highlighted to your individual posts…?

    (After years of getting by using better all season tires ,last winter we got 4 full season winter tires on rims…very noticeable difference in braking, turning…but big investment for sure – now I worry about the guy coming up behind me at a stop. )

    • Good idea about the map. I’ll post a new one at the end of my final post tomorrow, as it’s somewhat different than the one I posted initially, and see if I can figure out a way to tie it to the posts.

      I gave up on all-seasons quite a few years ago. My winter tires are always mounted on rims so the change-over is easy and cheap.