British Columbia Highway 20
Highway 20, also known as the Chilcotin Highway, and officially dubbed the Alexander MacKenzie Highway, is the main East-West route in the Central Interior of
British Columbia. It runs 457 km (284 mi) from Williams Lake westward through the Chilcotin region to South Bentinck Arm, an inlet from the Pacific Ocean where the town of Bella Coola is located. As of 2006, all but 57 km (35 mi) has been paved, mostly for expediting the removal of timber from the region, which is afflicted like most of British Columbia with pine beetleinfestations. Logging traffic and ranch-related traffic on the route can be expected.
Highway 20 is famous for the portion of the westernmost stretch, between
Anahim Lakeand Bella Coola, known as "the Hill" or "The Precipice". This is an 11 km (18 km) climb (starting at approximately 300 m, 1,000 ft) and rising to where the road crosses the Coast Rangevia Heckman Passin Tweedsmuir South Provincial Parkat an elevation of 1487 m (4,879 ft). From this point the road descends over 9km (6 mi) of switchbacks to the Bella Coola Valley at a maximum grade of 18% (about 1 in 6). The road is winding, in some places only wide enough for one vehicle, and in many places bordered on one side by cliffs and on the other side by a drop of hundreds of meters (many hundreds of feet) unprotected by guardrails. Tourists who have driven to Bella Coola from Williams Lake have been known to refuse to drive back and have had to be taken out by boat or float planeFact|date=January 2008.
Until 1953 Highway 20 ended at Anahim Lake, 137 km (85 mi) from Bella Coola. The province considered the terrain too difficult and refused to extend it, leaving Bella Coola inaccessible by road. The road, known at the time as the "Freedom Road", was completed by local volunteers working from opposite ends with two bulldozers and supplies bought on credit.
Highway 20 begins in Williams Lake at its juncture with Highway 97. It rises gradually for 23 km (14 mi) to the crossing of the
Fraser Riverat Sheep Creek Bridge, from which it ascends via a series of steep switchbacks to the Chilcotin Plateau. Prior to improvements of the late 20th Century, including the Sheep Creek Bridge, it crossed the Fraser via a 1910s style suspension bridge, which was like those farther south at Gang Ranch-Dog Creek and Lillooet.
At 36 km (22 mi) it passes the LORAN-C Tower, part of the maritime navigation system.
At 52 km (32 mi) it passes through Riske Creek (population 165) then at 94 km (58 mi) the hamlet of Hanceville (population 68).
Around 104km (64 mi) it passes
Anaham Reserve, a Chilcotincommunity before reaching Alexis Creek (population 317) at 114km (71 mi). From Alexis Creek it is 122 km (76 mi) to the next town, Tatla Lake (population 147).
54 km (34 mi) farther West is
Nimpo Lakewhich serves as a float plane base for the region. Just west of Nimpo Lake the highway crosses the Dean Riverbefore reaching Anahim Lake (population 163) and the adjacent Indian reserve at 310 km (193 mi). Past Anahim Lake the road descends to Hagensborg and finally Bella Coola (population 2500). The entire route is scenic and very sparsely populated.
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