Hell’s Gate.

Note And Photos From :- Kelowna Trout Angler.

Hell’s Gate.

The mighty Hell’s Gate in British Columbia, Canada. It’s on the Fraser river and is a most spectacular sight. As you stand in the car park you have no idea of the scale of what you are about to explore. The tourists leave the buses and step onto the tarmac, chattering in groups and posing for pictures. The entrance to the ticket booth is very un-assuming, as all entrances should be. The gift shop should never take emotion from the spectacle to be seen.

Tickets purchased and through the turn style you start to get a sense of what awaits you as you look across at the mountain opposite. Logic and a lighter wallet tells you there is a magnificant sight to be seen below. Gradually the line shortens and your approach is monitored as you get into the cable car, which is going to descend and cross the river, taking you to the viewing platforms on the other side of the gorge.

Air tram

Doors are closed, the guide pushes the button and you’re off. Down you go, looking at the safety of the booth you have just left and suddenly there’s a view of the river.

Hell's Gate

 It’s a lot wider upstream of where you are and there seems to be a great deal of turbulence below.

Hell's Gate

 Looking away downstream, you know the river is much wider, but here at the Gate the river is squeezed and the Fraser is constrained to a narrow channel.


The statistics of Hell’s Gate are somewhat staggering in themselves. At this point the river is only 35m (110 ft ) wide and the river flows at a rate of between 350 to 15,000 cubic metres per second. What we see now resulted from an accident in 1913 when the Canadian railway blasted it’s way through the Fraser Canyon.

The Train

There was a rock slide and the spectacular result is history.  There have been huge floods since that time, with the largest in the late 1940’s, giving depths of several hundred feet and destroying the bridge and airtram.

Hell's Gate Bridge

While you stand on the bridge and look down at the river give some thought to the salmon that negotiate this passage. They leave the sea at Vancouver and start a journey which may cover 1100 km in their search for their spawning grounds. The lower Fraser may not be easy, but  this spot?. When the landslip occurred it did substantial damage to the annual return of salmon. Some say salmon runs are still only 90 % successful, even today, but that’s a topic for another time. To be fair, there is constant monitoring and work is in progress to mitigate the damage. There is a fish pass, which dramatically reduces the river speed and enables the salmon a safer passage past the spot.

Hell's Gate Fish Pass

 Many words have been written about the Fraser river and the Fraser Canyon and I can do little more than direct the reader to books on the history of the area. It makes challenging reading and gives great insight to both nature and to human endeavour.

Since writing this article I have met a small group of kayakers who have actually paddled down this part of the Fraser river.  I think they’re crazy !!!  I’m also led to believe that you can try and run the river on an inflatable raft.

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