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Natural Wonders

Natural Wonders of the North Thompson Valley

The North Thompson Valley’s natural history created a land made for adventure. Heated by volcanoes and cooled by glaciers, mighty rivers rage, waterfalls cascade and open blue skis call to you in the shadow of mountains.

Bald Eagle in Flight

Rustic badlands and soft, rolling mountains in the Lower North Thompson slowly careen upward as you travel north. It’s here where three mountain ranges collide, creating a visual masterpiece against a blue sky. Born of fire and ice, shifting tectonic plates created this place where you’ll find storied waterfalls, alongside a lush and aromatic inland rainforest. Relax by fresh-water lakes fed by ancient, receding glaciers. The mighty Fraser, North Thompson and South Thompson rivers bind it all together.

Where Mountains were Born

As you travel the Yellowhead Highway 5 north from Kamloops your eyes are automatically drawn to the sweeping and stately beauty of the Monashee, Cariboo and Rocky Mountain ranges. This is where you’ll find the creation story of British Columbia.

Eons ago, this was a part of a large super-continent known as Pangaea. Then the Earth’s surface separated into smaller land masses which drifted apart. The North American Plate collided with the Pacific Plate Terrane around 175 million years ago. The sheer force of this was so great that it forever changed the landscape. Pacific Plate Terrane. Huge masses of rock fractured and slid over one another creating the mountains you see today. These ranges sit like weather-beaten soldiers with a hidden tale woven within their rocks.

Fire and Ice in Wells Gray Park

Ten thousand years ago, fire and ice left their mark on Wells Gray Provincial Park. Look closely as you explore the waterfalls, rivers, and hiking trails and you’ll see lava beds, tuyas (a volcano once covered by a glacier), crater lakes and cinder cones.

Four separate glacial periods iced-over this wilderness region. Bubbling beneath the frozen mantle of the Earth’s crust was seething, hot magma, waiting to explode. When the churning hot molten mass eventually escaped its icy realm, hot air travelled up the surface causing violent steam explosions. Fragmented rock pieces were cooled by flowing over the ice. Successive explosions created the layer-cake landscapes you see throughout the park. Receding glaciers carved gaping canyons and flowing rivers where lava once flowed. Today, extraordinary waterfalls plummet downwards. Take your time and notice the hardened volcanic rock layers, lichen-drenched boulders, surging waterfalls, and lush, forested corridors.

Explore the Natural History of the North Thompson Valley

  • Take in the views of the majestic Rockies, layered in sedimentary rock and marine fossils.
  • Helicopter to Berg Lake near the top of Mount Robson, the highest peak of the Canadian Rockies. Walk the frosty shores of this glacial wonder.
  • Hike Tod Mountain, the highest of three summits that make up Sun Peaks alpine ski resort. Enjoy an abundance of blossoming alpine colour, backcountry wildlife your companion.
  • Explore Cranberry Marsh by foot or bike. Climb the observation tower and view where the Monashee, Cariboo and Rocky Mountains all meet. Canoe among the 140 species of birds that migrate through the area. Come back in winter and skate on the marsh and explore the area on snowshoes.
  • Fly fish from atop a lava bed! The crusty rock outcrops above Clearwater Lake’s Osprey Falls was once molten lava.
  • See if you can count the layers of rock, each representing their own volcanic eruption at Helmcken Falls, or Spahats Falls in Wells Gray Provincial Park.
  • Float calmly in serene waters on the Fraser River or roll through the rapids on the Clearwater or Adams Rivers.
  • Find your peace on Murtle Lake; North America’s largest paddle only lake and marvel in the watery wilderness surrounding you.
  • Uncover your own adventure in a land where geological shifting millions of years ago created our rough country paradise.