|Bella Coola Valley
The Bella Coola Valley in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest of British Columbia, is worthy of national park status for its natural beauty. It is a wide, non-claustrophobic valley, framed by mountains, glaciers, and waterfalls. It is accessed on the eastern end by a dirt highway with hairpin turns but no guard rails leading up "The Hill" to Highway 20 and then to the Chilcotin Plataeau and interior of British Columbia. At the western end is the charming and unassuming First Nations town of Bella Coola, which can be accessed only by boat from the Pacific Ocean via a long inlet, the Bentinck Arm.
|Bentinck Arm near Bella Coola, BC
The boat was mostly wheelchair accessible. In order to change deck levels, we had to take the elevator. There was no problem going between the passenger deck (which has a cafeteria, gift shop, seats, and views), the sun deck on top, and the cabin deck (which I didn't explore, since ours was only a day trip). The entrance to the elevator on the vehicle deck, where we parked the car, however, had a very steep and narrow ramp which necessitated transferring from my power chair to a manual chair (luckily the ship had one) and making the journey to and up the elevator in a manual chair. I then waited on the passenger deck while they carried up my power chair for me to transfer back into. This only worked because I had a travel power chair, which disassembles into parts light enough to carry. Because of the complicated and arduous nature of this trip, I didn't take advantage of any of the breaks offered which opened up the vehicle deck to passenger access. Rather, I made sure to bring everything with me. I don't know whether or not other boats have this configuration. I have read that the ferry from Part Hardy to Prince Rupert offers wheelchair accessible cabins for this longer, overnight trip.
|Bella Coola townsite
|Bella Coola harbor
Since we visited in October, the tours were mostly done for the year. One fjord tour might have worked with the wheelchair, but it was too windy to take out the boat on our scheduled day and then the tour was done for year. The drift boats were still operating, but they were fully booked for the week. One of them had seats with backs and thus looked possible with a bit of work and attitude.
We spent a few days watching bears. Because of the low salmon runs, there were only a few bears, but patience brought some good sightings.
|Belarko bear-viewing platform in Tweedsmuir Park
|Tweedsmuir Park Fisheries bear-viewing
At the Tweedsmuir Park Fisheries Pool, bears could be viewed in and around the pond. The Fisheries campground also boasts an accessible outhouse. Both wildlife-viewing areas are surrounded by gorgeous scenery.
|Of course this looked much worse in reality!
Next: Part 3 (Highways 20, 97, and 99)