Exploring Hwy 37a, BC’s Glacier Highway to Stewart

Well pleased with our decision to stay at Meziadin Lake Provincial Park for a third night, Day 52 of the trip – Tuesday, June 14th – was going to be laid-back. I did, though, want to spend some time on the Glacier Highway and see if I could reach the toe of the nearby Bear Glacier.

The day was perfect to do some glacier exploration, but I didn’t get away from the campground until almost 10:30, by which time most of the sites had already emptied. I saw one rig leave at 05:30 – that’s some vacation!

Rainy morning at Meziadin Lake campground
That’s the Highways gravel house, at Km 54.8 of Highway 37a (measured from Stewart – it’s 10.2 km from the junction with Highway 37, the Stewart-Cassiar Highway).

Highways gravel house, at Km 54.8 of Highway 37a
Surprise Creek, at Km 52.8. Fed by both glacier and snow melt as well as rain, the water levels of all the creeks was quite high, which didn’t bode well for my route-search.

Surprise Creek, Glacier Highway 37a
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, BC Highway 37a is called “the Glacier Highway” because you pass by about 20 glaciers and icefields (most unnamed – see map).

Unnamed glacier above BC's Glacier Highway
Given how rapid the retreat of the Bear Glacier has been over the 41 years that I’ve been watching it, I wonder how large this glacier was when I lived here? I should have taken more photos! 🙂

Unnamed glacier above BC's Glacier Highway
The view ahead at Km 45 – Cornice Creek is half a kilometer ahead. Going through these photos again makes me want to drive back there tomorrow for another week or two.

Km of BC's Glacier Highway
Above Cornice Creek is aptly-named Cornice Mountain. What fun those cornices would be for the guys with the avalanche mortars and bombs!

Cornice Mountain, on BC's Glacier Highway
There used to be a lovely rest area overlooking Strohn Lake and the Bear Glacier, but it was closed perhaps 20 years ago, not too many years after it was built. I expect that it was because of the danger of avalanches, but the Bear Glacier has also retreated out of sight of the rest area since it was built. The road to it is still open, but Mother Nature is slowly but surely reclaiming the ground.

Road to abandoned rest area along BC's Glacier Highway
A particularly fine waterfall along the road to the former rest area, shot with a fairly long telephoto lens. The brush between the road and it was much too thick to permit an approach, unfortunately.

Waterfall along BC's Glacier Highway
Back on the highway, this is the first view of Strohn Lake and the Bear Glacier, at about Km 40.5. It’s hard to imagine now that in the 1940s, the glacier filled the valley – the original road is hundreds of feet above the current one.

Strohn Lake and the Bear Glacier
The main glacier viewing area has this sign lit up…

Rockfall Hazard sign along BC's Glacier Highway
…because of this very steep and unstable slope above it.

Unstable slope along BC's Glacier Highway
A rough road leads down to the creek (the head of the Bear River) that I needed to cross to reach the glacier. I was able to wade most of the way across, but the last two channels were too deep, fast, and murky. If I hadn’t been carrying an expensive camera and so afraid of a fall, getting across would probably not be a big problem.

The head of the Bear River
Going downstream looking for a crossing, I found a well-anchored rope across the creek. The creek was both too deep and fast for that crossing, though, camera or not. I gave up the attempt to reach the glacier after about 20 minutes. I’d be back, with a canoe to simply paddle across Strohn Lake with next time.

Anchored rope across the head of the Bear River
The massive base of an old avalanche mortar is visible from the highway at about Km 50, and a short hike to it seemed like a good plan.

Access road to an avalanche mortar along BC's Glacier Highway
I was very surprised by the size of it. Although it’s secured from entry, all electrical equipment has been stripped from it, so I assume that it’s no longer used.

Avalanche mortar along BC's Glacier Highway
Bugs hadn’t been a problem at all during during my wanders so far, but back at the motorhome, the mosquitoes were very bad, so we had lunch inside while hordes of the little beasts licked their chops outside the screen. 🙂

Mosquitoes at Meziadin Lake
Cathy was in the mood for a drive, and there’s a fish ladder on the Meziadin River that I hadn’t been to in many, many years, so we headed out at about 2:00 pm. The one-lane bridge that carries the Stewart-Cassiar Highway over the Nass River always intrigues me, so we started out there. It’s always nice when a tanker truck comes along at the perfect time for the shot I really wanted.

One-lane bridge over the Nass River on the Stewart-Cassiar Highway
I had only a vague memory, combined with rather vague directions in The Milepost, of the location of the fish ladder, and the first turn took us to the Meziadin River just downstream from the lake. So we were close, and even knew the general direction to go from there.

Meziadin River just downstream from the lake
The next road took us to what was probably a fish ladder, but it wasn’t the very scenic site that I remembered and wasn’t very accessible, so we kept going along an ever-smaller road.

Fish ladder on the Meziadin River
There, that’s the place I remember! The weir forces most fish into the fish ladder on the near side of the river, though I’ve seen salmon jump the weir. The water, though, was dramatically higher than the last time I saw it. Mission accomplished 🙂

Fish weir on the Meziadin River
It had been an excellent day, and the weather had been good, but as we relaxed outside the RV that evening (with just enough wind to keep the bugs away), a storm approached.

Relaxing outside the RV at Meziadin Lake campground
By 7:30 pm, the winds from the storm forced us inside, and the rain began soon after.

A storm approaching Meziadin Lake campground

On Wednesday, we’d drive north until we felt like stopping, with Gnat Pass, south of Dease Lake, the likely overnight boondocking location.



Comments

Exploring Hwy 37a, BC’s Glacier Highway to Stewart — 3 Comments

  1. That is a place I could see spending a solid week, beautiful scenery. The mtn scenery is stunning and accessible.

    After so many days on the road, what about the RV would you change or improve given the opportunity (budget be damned, including up or downsizing, etc)…

    Still hoping to see you put the hydro lift on the rear bumper for the bike, but adventures are safer and more relaxed on 4 wheels, I know.

    • This trip was the perfect one to really wring out the RV as far as what we’d change, with eventual full-timing in mind. The answer keeps coming up as “nothing” – everything about this one suits us very well. Floor plan, lots of windows, extra-large bathroom, tons of storage, excellent powertrain. Well not “nothing”, I suppose, as the bike lift is going on soon – probably next year. I’m still up and down about a diesel. In a perfect world, if a 300 Cummins was available in this rig, I may well move up to that, but not certain, because the Vortec 8100 is dead simple and cheap to maintain.

  2. Thanks for the followup and on my way to read your end of trip wrap up and costs scenario.

    Good choices and patience in the purchase, that played out extremely well for all of you. There is alot of satisfaction I am sure in the end result!