About British Columbia

British Columbia (BC) (French: la Colombie-Britannique, C.-B.) is the westernmost of Canada's provinces and is famed for its natural beauty, as reflected in its Latin motto, Splendor sine occasu ("Splendour without diminishment"). It was the sixth province to join the Canadian Confederation and residents are referred to as British Columbians. BC's capital is Victoria while the largest city is Vancouver, which is also Canada's third-largest metropolitan area.

British Columbia's Geography

British Columbia is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on its west, by the American state of Alaska on its northwest, and to the north by the Yukon and the Northwest Territories, on the east by the province of Alberta, and on the south by the U.S. states of Washington, Idaho, and Montana. The current southern border of British Columbia was established by the 1846 Oregon Treaty, although its history is tied up with lands as far south as the California border. British Columbia's land area is 944,735 square kilometers (364,764 square miles) which is about the size of France, Germany and the Netherlands combined. It is larger than the total area of Washington State, Oregon and California. British Columbia's rugged coastline stretches for more than 27,000 kilometers (16,780 miles), including deep, mountainous fjords and about 6,000 islands, most of which are uninhabited.

British Columbia's capital is Victoria, located at the southeastern tip of Vancouver Island. BC's most populous city is Vancouver, located in southwest corner of the BC mainland called the Lower Mainland. Other major cities include Surrey, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Richmond, Delta, and New Westminster in the Lower Mainland; Abbotsford and Langley in the Fraser Valley; Nanaimo on Vancouver Island; and Kelowna and Kamloops in the Interior. Prince George is the largest city in the northern part of the province, while a town northwest of it, Vanderhoof, is at the geographic centre of the province.

The Coast Mountains, the Canadian Rockies and the Inside Passage's many inlets provide some of British Columbia's renowned and spectacular scenery, which forms the backdrop and context for a growing outdoor adventure and ecotourism industry. Seventy-five percent of the province is mountainous (more than 1,000 metres or 3,280 feet above sea level); 60% is forested; and only about 5% is arable. The Okanagan area is one of only three wine-growing regions in Canada and also produces excellent ciders, but exports little of either beverage. The small rural towns of Penticton, Oliver, and Osoyoos have some of the warmest and longest summer climates in Canada, although their temperature ranges are exceeded by the even-warmer Fraser Canyon towns of Lillooet and Lytton, where temperatures on summer afternoons often surpass 40C (104F).

Much of the western part of Vancouver Island and the rest of the coast as far north as the Alaska Panhandle and south from the Olympic Peninsula to northern California, is covered by temperate rain forest. This overall region is one of a mere handful of such temperate rainforest ecosystems in the world (notable others being in Chile, New Zealand, Tasmania, and the Russian Far East). The province's mainland away from coastal regions are not as moderated by the Pacific Ocean and range from desert and semi-arid plateau to the range and canyon districts of the interior plateau. A few southern interior valleys feature snowy, cold winters, while those in the Cariboo, the northern part of the Central Interior, are as cold as anywhere else in wintertime Canada due to altitude and latitude. The northern two-thirds of the province is largely unpopulated and undeveloped, and is mostly mountainous except east of the Rockies, where the Peace River District contains BC's portion of the Canadian Rockies.

British Columbia's Parks and Protected Areas

There are 14 designations of parks and protected areas in the province that reflects the different administration and creation of these areas in a modern context. There are 141 ecological Reserves, 35 provincial marine parks, 7 Provincial Heritage Sites, 6 National Historic Sites, 4 National Parks and 3 National Park Reserves. 12.5% (114,000 km2) of BC is currently considered 'protected' under one of the 14 different designations that includes over 800 distinct areas.

British Columbia contains seven of Canada's national parks:

BC also contains a large network of provincial parks, run by BC Parks of the Ministry of Environment. BC's provincial parks system is the second largest parks system in Canada (the largest is Canadian National Parks system). In addition to these areas, over 4.7 million hectares of arable land are protected by the Agricultural Land Reserve.

Recreation in British Columbia

Given its varied mountainous terrain and its coasts, lakes, rivers, and forests, British Columbia has long been enjoyed for pursuits like hiking and camping, rock climbing and mountaineering, hunting and fishing.

Water sports, both motorized and non-motorized, are enjoyed in many places. Sea kayaking opportunities abound on the B.C. coast with its fjords. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are popular on many inland rivers. Sailing and sailboarding are widely enjoyed.

In winter, cross-country and telemark skiing are much enjoyed, and in recent decades high-quality downhill skiing has been developed in the Coast Mountain range and the Rockies, as well as in the southern areas of the Shuswap Highlands and the Columbia Mountains. Snowboarding has mushroomed in popularity since the early 1990s. The Vancouver Whistler 2010 Olympics downhill events will be held in Whistler-Blackcomb area of the province, while the indoor events will be in the Vancouver area.

In Vancouver and Victoria (as well as some other cities), opportunities for joggers and bicyclists have been developed. Cross-country bike touring has been popular since the ten-speed bike became available many years ago. Since the advent of more robust mountain bikes, trails in more rugged and wild places have been developed for them. Some of the province's retired rail beds have been converted and maintained for hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing.

Horseback riding is enjoyed by many British Columbians. Opportunities for trail riding, often into especially scenic areas, have been established for tourists in numerous areas of the province.

British Columbia also has strong participation levels in many other sports, including golf, tennis, soccer, hockey, Canadian football, rugby, softball, basketball, curling and figure skating. B.C. has produced many outstanding athletes, especially in aquatic and winter sports. Also, today programmes of training and toning systems like aerobics and hatha yoga are widespread. Most communities of several thousand people or more have developed facilities for these.

Consistent with both increased tourism and increased participation in diverse recreations by British Columbians themselves has been the proliferation of lodges, chalets, bed and breakfasts, motels, hotels, fishing camps, and park-camping facilities in recent decades. In certain areas, there are businesses, non-profit societies, or municipal governments dedicated to promoting ecotourism in their region.

British Columbia's Wildlife

Much of the province is wild or semi-wild, so that populations of very many mammalian species that have become rare in much of the United States of America still flourish in B.C. Watching animals of various sorts, including a very wide range of birds, has also long been popular. Bears (grizzly, black, and the Kermode bear or spirit bearonly found in British Columbia) live here, as do deer, elk, moose, caribou, big-horn sheep, mountain goats, marmots, beavers, muskrat, coyotes, wolves, mustelids (such as wolverines, badgers and fishers), mountain lions, eagles, ospreys, herons, Canada geese, swans, loons, hawks, owls, ravens, harlequin ducks, and many other sorts of ducks. Smaller birds (robins, jays, grosbeaks, chickadees, etc.) also abound.

Healthy populations of many sorts of fish are found in the waters (including salmonids such as several species of salmon, trout, char, etc.). Besides salmon and trout, sport-fishers in B.C. also catch halibut, steelhead, bass, and sturgeon. On the coastlines, harbour seals and river otters are common. Cetacean species native to the coast include the Orca, Gray Whale, Harbour Porpoise, Dall's Porpoise, Pacific White-Sided Dolphin and Minke Whale.

All BC Information courtesy www.wikipedia.com. Text is used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

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