Along the Frazer River in central B.C. there’s a narrow gorge called Hell’s Gate. It was named by the man who first navigated it, Simon Frazer, in 1808. He and his group of men were canoing down the river and tried unsuccessfully to canoe through the gorge. It was too wild and deep. He said “Surely these are the gates of hell and no man should attempt to cross”.
Well, he did get past it by climbing along the sides, in some places by hanging a shelf of wood by ropes so they could pass the places with no footholds. He finished navigating and mapping the river.
It was still a most difficult part of the river, and caused many deaths and hardships. One man decided he could come upriver in a steamboat and get through the gorge in order to bring supplies to folks upriver. He tried several times and finally had to have Chinese workers along the steep walls of the gorge basically drag the boat through the gorge. If a worker lost their foothold and let go they fell into the river and drowned. He did that several times.
In the early 1900s a road was carved into the mountains past the gorge, and in the 1940s a railway line was built. While dynamiting the hillside above the gorge a large quantity of rocks fell into the river and the next year it was discovered that it prevented the salmon from getting past the gorge on their way upstream to spawn. This was a catastrophe! For several years, people who lived in the area would catch salmons in nets, transport them through the gorge and release them above the rockfall area. This helped but was not enough. So, the government devised a bypass for the salmon – sort of like a set of locks through the Panama Canal! The salmon swim into a narrow opening in a concrete bunker and are able to swim through it to an opening above the rockfall. It worked! The salmon have not recovered from their pre-rockfall numbers and never will, they now can swim upstream in enough numbers to preserve the species that instinctively swim up this river to lay their eggs.
Today the gorge is travelled by the TransCanada Highway and two railway lines, one on each side of the river. There is a tram that takes visitors from the TransCanada Highway down to the gorge for a visitor center with a restaurant and some hiking trails. People can hike down to the river and cross the suspension bridge to get to the visitor center as well – but we chose to ride the tram!
Here are pictures: