In 1808, explorer Simon Fraser – while canoeing the river that now bears his name in interior British Columbia – came upon a terrifying sight. At one point, the massive river narrows to just 34 metres and churns through a ferocious set of rapids. He wrote, “This was a place where no human being should venture, for surely we have encountered the gates of hell.”
Despite Fraser’s warning, I decided to venture to Hell’s Gate over the weekend. Located about 2.5 hours northeast of Vancouver along Highway 1, the site is now home to the ever popular Hell’s Gate Airtram, which whisks passengers safely across the rapids without even having to get their feet wet.
Here are a few photos from my descent into the infernal depths of Hell’s Gate:
Hell’s Gate is about a 45-minute drive north of Hope or a 45-minute drive south of Lytton (shown above) along Highway 1.
The Hell’s Gate Airtram carries passengers 330 metres across the deepest and narrowest section of the Fraser River in around 3 minutes.
More than 200 million gallons of water flow past Hell’s Gate every minute – twice the volume of Niagara Falls.
During pre-Airtram pioneer days, explorers had to traverse the Fraser Canyon using precarious rope ladders and platforms, as shown in the Hell’s Gate museum.
The tram carries passengers to a themed tourist village on the opposite shore of the Fraser River.
For $5, you can sift through gravel from nearby Hills Bar, home to the biggest claim ever staked in the Fraser Canyon during the great Fraser River Gold Rush in the mid 1860s.
Hell’s Gate is also home to a motherlode of sugar – from lollipops to ice cream and homemade fudge.
Inside the Fisheries Exhibit, displays explain the massive fish ladders constructed at Hell’s Gate after a 1914 landslide during the construction of the CN Railway blocked the salmon run.
A pedestrian bridge traverses the river, offering access to a hiking trail on the opposite shore.
The journey back to the other side on the Airtram takes another three minutes.
The entire Hell’s Gate experience takes around 30-60 minutes, depending on how long you linger in the village and how much fudge you eat.
Adult tickets for Hell’s Gate Airtram are $21, with discounts for students, seniors and kids. The attraction is open daily from April 17-Oct. 13, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. or 5 p.m, depending on the date. For directions from Vancouver, consult the Hell’s Gate website.
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