Tucked away between the Fraser River and the Coast Mountain Range, in the land of the Secwepmec people, lays an ecological gem. Edge Hills Provincial Park is a wonderland of rare grasslands, mixed-wood forests and spectacular views of the remarkable geology of the Fraser Canyon.
The park carries a strong cultural heritage, as it is within the Secwepmec traditional territory.1 And it was here below the hills southwest of Clinton where the Fraser River meets Kelly Creek, a young Secwepmec man in 1872 discovered gold.
The Edge Hills proved to be a mining Mecca, but only temporarily. Generally referred to as the Grange Mine, near the confluence of Kelly Creek and the Fraser River, the first excavation began in 1881. Over the years gold, silver and copper were mined, but not without difficulty. Numerous mining companies extracted the valuable metals, but as claims lapsed all mining excavation was shut down by 1941. Vestiges of the old shafts are all that remain.
However, it is at the more northern edge of the park that there is something worth far more than gold or silver. At Cougar Point one realizes how rich they truly are gazing upon a geological wonder embracing the Mighty Muddy Fraser River. It is like being at the top of the world. The Coast Mountains, beyond the Camels Foot Range, appear to be within reach and with imagination one can almost see the top of Vancouver Island and hear the roar of the surf of the Pacific Ocean.
Looking far into the northwest one can see the edge of the Churn Creek Protected Area. The park is a rare and fragile grassland ecosystem. To the southwest hidden beyond the wends of the river lays the magical Pavilion Lake at the foot of the magnificent Marble Range.2 And beyond sight are the many limestone caves that provide homes and protection for the many critters in the park.
This amazing canyon was created by the river cutting through the remarkable geology of the Interior Plateau during the Miocene period creating the vast benchlands of the Fraser Plateau.3 The steep cliffs express the colourful evidence of volcanic activity during the Pliocene period.4 And the sheer ruggedness of the canyon is the result of the power of water and the abrasiveness of ancient silt and sand.
While the steepness of the cliffs may pose a challenge to people, they are a mere pathway from one seasonal site to another for the sure-footed bighorn sheep of the area. The sheep winter through in the warmth of the canyon where the rugged and steep cliffs protect them from predators and food is plentiful, as very little snow falls. In the spring the bighorn migrate to the rich green alpine of the Marble Range, traversing the rugged cliffs with ease.
The drive to the High Bar Road passes through sagebrush grasslands. The grasslands are home to wandering cattle and horses belonging to the many active ranches in the region. They also harbour a variety of wildlife including sandhill cranes, deer and small rodents, the major sustenance for the many hawks in the area.
The drive along the narrow and steep road to the lookout passes from grasslands through Douglas fir forests and up to the alpine forest of ponderosa and lodge pole pine. The ground is a dry and dusty dirt floor dotted with the many colours of wildflowers that hug the rocks and cliff edges.
Cougar Point is a spectacular secret hidden deep in Edge Hills Park on top of the Fraser Plateau. A mighty muddy river, the Fraser has cut a swath through ancient geology to provide a magnificent view into the past and a sense of wonder. On top of the world the vista is an awesome treasure high above Gold Country.