Burns Lake BC
The Village of Burns Lake is situated 229 km west of Prince George, BC on "the scenic Yellowhead Highway". Elevation 2,300 feet, population 2,500 it has a service or trading area of 10,000 people.
Burns Lake is located in the Lakes District within the boundaries of the
Bulkley-Nechako Regional District and the Nechako Development Region. The area was originally called Burnt Lake and is the gateway to the world famous Tweedsmuir Park, the largest park in BC. The Lakes District includes the communities of Burns Lake, Granisle, Topley, Southbank, Fort Fraser, Francois Lake, and Endako.
The first people living here were the Wet'suwet'en First Nation. They lived for several thousand years as hunter/gathers. The Wet'suwet'en built boats
for fishing and travel. They harvested fruits, plants and tubers for food as well as medical purposes. They also participated in the active trading networks that saw oolichan oil or "grease" transported up from the coastal tribes. These "grease trails" provided travel networks as far inland as the prairies. It was a grease trail that Alexander MacKenzie followed while exploring an overland fur trade route to the Pacific Ocean in 1793
The Wet'suwet'em are a matriarchal society organized into four different
clans of Bear, Beaver, Caribou, and Frog. Their social and economic structure centred around the "Potlatch". All major events such as births, marriages or deaths were an occasion for a Potlatch. This was a celebration where gifts were given to guests in a display of wealth. The Potlatch ceremonies were also an occasion for clan leaders to discuss territorial adjustments and to arrange future alliances.
The Village of Burns Lake was first settled in the 19th century during construction of the Collins overland telegraph line to Alaska and Siberia. Further settlement
followed the construction of the Railroad in 1914. In the early 1950's, the Aluminium Company of Canada (Alcan) constructed an aluminium smelter at Kitimat. In order to generate the necessary electricity, they dammed the Nechako River to create the huge Ootsa Lake Reservoir and then tunnelled through a mountain to divert the water to a generating facility in Kitimat.
The first non-native man to settle in Burns Lake was Charles Bulkley, an
American engineer responsible for the telegraph trail that was to link up with the Siberian network. It ran from Fraser Lake to Burns Lake and Decker Lake, down the Bulkley River to Hazelton and then up the Kispiox River into the Yukon. This telegraph was intended to provide North America with direct communication to Europe. However, an Atlantic cable was completed first, and most of the line was abandoned in 1936.
One of Burns Lake's prominent early citizens was Barney Mulvaney, an enterprising
trapper and packer who operated a mail and passenger service. He is credited with starting the tent town which became Burns Lake. He also ran the saloon and gambling den known as the "Bucket of Blood". This building still stands on the museum grounds at the Visitor Info Center on Highway 16 in Burns Lake.
Completion of the railroad in 1914 further opened up the area to mining and forestry. The railroad created a steady demand for railroad ties. This was
the beginning of commercial forestry activities in the region. Burns Lake became a center for the "tie hackers", independent loggers, many of whom settled in the area permanently.
Burns Lake Info Center at 540 W Highway 16, 250-692-3773.
Emergency: Police - 692-7171; Fire - 692-3555; Ambulance - 692-7445; Hospital - 741 Center St. 692-3181.
Burns Lake Motor Inn Box 1135, Burns
Lake V0J 1E0 corner of Highway 16 and 35. 250-692-7545
Lakeland Inn Box 290 Highway 16, Burns LakeV0J 1E0, 250-692-7771
Husky Oil - Hwy. 16 & Government St. 250-692-3413. Gas, diesel, propane, towing, tire and vehicle repair.
Things To Do
The local lakes and wilderness areas offer many opportunities for fishing,
boating, hiking photography, wildlife viewing, and camping. Recreational facilities include a library, ski club, two nine hole golf courses and tennis courts. Churches of all denominations are represented.