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Sunday, September 2, 2001
Travel

Williams Lake: A haven for tourists
Vinay Kumar Malhotra

THE U.N.O. has declared Canada as the best country to live in. It is vast, well-maintained and pollution free. Ottawa, the national capital of Canada and the Province of British Columbia (BC), situated on the western coast of Canada is spectacular in natural and scenic beauty.

The airtram descends 500feet into the rugged grandeur of the Hellís Gate narrows.
The airtram descends 500feet into the rugged grandeur of the Hellís Gate narrows.

I would like to narrate the journey by road from Vancouver of Williams Lake city in the lap of nature. People know much about well-known metropolitan city of Vancouver. I have, therefore, chosen to focus my narrative on a less-known place like Williams Lake and its natural beauty.

The City of Williams Lake is about 560 km north of Vancouver. It is connected by road, rail and air. Journey by car from Vancouver to Williams Lake takes about six and a half hours. One drives through Trans-Canada Highway No I and then through Highway No: 97. The road meanders through hills and mountains, but it is not as zigzag as Indian hilly roads are. Even hilly roads are either four-lane or two-lane and the speed limit is 80 to 100 km; but the locals usually drive at a speed of 120 km. One cannot dare to drive at this speed on hilly roads of India where one encounters several hairpin bends to bog down the speed.

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Trans-Canada highway no: I is laid on the bank of Fraser River. On both sides of the Fraser River, railway lines have also been laid out. Rail lines and road run parallel to river that gives an enchanting view. One passes through majestic mountains of different kinds ó rocky, dry, green and snow-clad. Many mountains are dotted with waterfalls. There is greenery all around. Mountains are mostly covered with dense forests. One comes across a variety of trees such as cedars, fir, pine, spruce etc. In between, there are plains where ginseng and hay grass have been planted. Different types of sprinkle systems irrigate these plantations. On the way are small places like Hellís Gate, Lytton, Ashcroft, Cache Creek, Clinton, the 100-mile House, and the 150-mile House etc. Each one has its own tourist attraction.

One of the most entertaining events of the rodeo is the Bull Riding event.
One of the most entertaining events of the rodeo is the Bull Riding event.

The spectacular Fraser Canyonís most outstanding attraction is Hellís Gate. Man and nature at its best. Here the air tram (ropeway trolley) descends 500 feet into the rugged grandeur of the Hellís Gate narrows. At peak-level, 200 million gallons of water per minute surge through this 100 feet wide gorge on the Fraser River.

Lytton is the raft capital of British Colubmbia. Ashcroft is famous for car racetrack. Cache Creek is the junction of Highway No: I and Highway No: 97. One wood chips making mill is also situated there. Small Clinton Town is full of trail parks, cafes and restaurants. The 100-mile House is the tourist resort for company, business executives and provides recreation facilities like fishing, horse riding, golfing, hiking, swimming, cycling etc.

On the way are several small and big lakes with clear water and with boating, fishing, canoeing, kayaking facilities etc. The Chilko-Chilcotin-Fraser river system is one of North Americaís finest river systems for rafting adventure. Lac La Hasche is a big lake and on its banks are camping sites for motor homes, trailers, fifth wheelers etc. There is no dearth of horse ranches and horse show places.

After about six and a half hoursí journey, one reaches the City of Williams Lake. A peculiar gate made of wooden logs welcome tourists and visitors to the city. Williams Lake and surrounding Cariboo-Chilcotin areas are full of dense forests that provide wood and timber in abundance. Particularly beautiful are the log homes constructed in the area. Many are shipped to customers elsewhere in Canada or to overseas clients.

Williams Lake is named after ĎChief William,í a Shuswap Indian Chief
Williams Lake is named after ĎChief William,í a Shuswap Indian Chief

The city is situated at the end of scenic Williams Lake, which is thought to be named after "Chief William" ó a Shuswap aboriginal Indian Chief. Nestled in a valley that sweeps to the Fraser River, Williams Lake is a modern city and the centre of a vast outdoor playground stretching from Rockies to the Pacific.

The dry climate and beauty of the vicinity make Williams Lake attractive to visit, live and retire in. Acreages, housing and town house developments, coupled with industry expansion contribute to cityís appeal. These special combinations make Williams Lake unique. Williams Lake because of its scenic beauty and pleasant climate became an obvious choice for early settlers. This rapidly-expanding community is supported by forestry, ranching and mining and offers an unlimited range of recreational activities like skiing, golfing, boating, fishing, hiking, swimming, camping, historical sites, flying adventure and incredible scenery.

Williams Lake has long been noted for its annual stampede that is held from June 29 to July 2. That is why this City is known as the "Stampede Capital of BC". Contestants from all over Western Canada and parts of the US compete for upwards of $ 100,000 in prizes in Bareback, Saddle Bronco Riding and Bull Riding, as well as Boys Steer Riding and Novice Bareback and Saddle Bronco. The timed events are Calf-roping, Ladies Barrel Racing, Steer Wrestling and Team Roping. One of the most entertaining events of the rodeo is the Bull Riding event.

Scout Island Recreation Area in the Lake is a marvellous location for nature appreciation. The island and marsh are prime nesting grounds for migrating birds that draw many for the watching. The bird sanctuary on Scout Island nature trails for a pleasant walk, with many varieties of interesting birds to watch. Scout Islandís animal species including foxes, beavers and muskrats. The arboretum displays as many examples of BCís trees and shrubs as can grow in the Cariboo. There is small beach, a boat launch and picnicking areas. As the fall colours guild the leaves, there is an added bonus to this moment of reflection.

The rugged terrain of the Cariboo Mountains keeps them secluded
The rugged terrain of the Cariboo Mountains keeps them secluded

A visit to Williams Lake is incomplete without visiting Lignum and Riverside ó BCís most advanced sawmills. These dimension lumber to 20 feet and are latest in scanning technology that gets the most value from log. These sawmills produce lumber for the world. NW Energy is a world-class facility that generates enough electricity from lumber mill waste wood (long fuel) to light 50,000 homes.

The City of Williams Lake and its surrounding areas have a population of 29,000. There are 250 families of Indian origin and except one all of them are Sikhs. While working hard they are enjoying a high standard of living. At Williams Lake, I stayed with my Indian friend Surinder Pal Rathor who has been settled there since 1974. A Canadian citizen, he was elected the City Councillor. With him, I was able to see the working of the City (Municipal) Council of Williams Lake. It is a seven-member council including one Mayor that is directly elected by citizens for three years on non-partisan basis. It meets regularly every Tuesday in the City Hall. Any citizen can come to the City Hall to watch its proceedings, which are open, transparent and telecast live in the City. Any resident can give a suggestion, petition and complaint to the council to be redressed. It is real grassroots-level democratic local self-government.

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