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Hells Gate Jet Boat Tours: World Host Recognized Business

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History of Fraser Canyon
Additional Information

If you're interested in learning more about the town of Yale before your Jet boat adventure into the Fraser Canyon, please see the link provided below.

The Fraser Canyon from Hope to Hell's Gate is an integral part of British Columbia's history. During the Gold Rush, prospectors from as far away as San Francisco migrated up the coast to Victoria where their journey to Yale and beyond began. The Town of Yale was founded by the Hudson's Bay Company in 1848 as Fort Yale, which was named after James Murray Yale, then Chief Factor of British District. In its heyday at the peak of the gold rush, it was reputed to be the largest city west of Chicago and north of San Francisco. It also earned names such as "the wickedest little settlement in British Columbia" and "a veritable Sodom and Gomorrah" of vice and violence and lawlessness.

Yale is a small village on the Fraser River and is generally considered to be on the dividing line between the Coast and the Interior of British Columbia. The Fraser Canyon begins Immediately north of the village and the river is generally considered unnavigable past this point. Rough water is common on the Fraser River anywhere upstream from Chilliwack, and even more so above Hope, about 20 miles south of Yale. Back in the 19th century, steamers could make it to Yale, good pilots and water conditions permitting, and the town had a busy dockside life as well as a variety of bars, restaurants, hotels, saloons and various services. Its maximum population during the gold rush was in the 15,000 range, although typically it housed 5-8,000.

Yale played an important role in certain events of the gold rush period, which threatened to throw B.C. over to American annexation, the Fraser Canyon War and McGowan's War, and it is to Yale that the Governor (on the first occasion) and the government officials (on the second) - Begbie, Brew and Moody came to address American miners and take control of matters that threatened the rule of the Crown over the Mainland.

Hell's Gate is a 35 metre (110 foot) narrowing of British Columbia's Fraser River Canyon, located immediately downstream of Boston Bar. The towering rock walls of the Fraser River plunge toward each other forcing the waters through a passage only 110 feet wide (35 m).

The first recorded history of Hell's Gate is found in the explorer Simon Fraser's journal, 1808. There he describes this narrow passage as an "awesome gorge" He also says that "surely this is the gate of hell". On June 26, 1808 Fraser passed along the cliffs on a series of bridges and ladders built by local Nlaka'pamux people.

Construction of the Canadian Northern Railway in 1914 blasted thousands of tons of rock into the river below the railroad grade which further constricted the river and damaged sockeye salmon runs. Thirty years of scientific planning and several years' construction have not completely repaired the damage. Hell's Gate's fishways, built by a joint Canadian-American Commission, were completed in 1946.

The route of the present Trans-Canada Highway through the Fraser Canyon parallels, roughly, the fur brigade trail of the Hudson's Bay Company, which was built over the shoulder of the Cascade Mountains high above the east bank of Hell's Gate, as the route north from Kequaloose (opposite Spuzzum) was completely impassable, even for mules. Beginning with the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush of 1858 Canyon a usable mule trail was built through the Canyon, a route which the new colonial government invested in heavily to build the Cariboo Wagon Road. The Cariboo Road was completed in 1864 but destroyed by CPR construction in the 1880s. A road through the canyon was not opened again until 1922 as the Cariboo Highway.

The Canadian Pacific Railway runs through the canyon. Construction through the canyon took four years and was completed in 1884. Across the river is the Canadian National Railway. Originally called the Canadian Northern Railway, this stretch was completed in 1914. Rockslides during construction narrowed the channel just above Hell's Gate, resulting in the need for the present fishways.

Hell's Gate Airtram
In 1969 the planning began to build Hell's Gate Airtram. There were 12 principal owners. One of the owners, who was also the General Manager, was Andrew Mulligan. The name of their company was Canyon Aerial Tramways doing business as Hell's Gate Airtram.

In 1970 General construction of the site began from concrete work to the stringing of the cables. The upper and lower terminal buildings are both anchored by bolts that go back 20 feet into the bedrock.

This airtram is Swiss built byHabegger Engineering Works of Thun, Switzerland and one of their mechanics came over to help set up the system. Fiber rope was shot across the canyon with a crossbow from the lower terminal to the upper cliff edge (half way) and then from the cliff to the upper terminal. Once the rope was in place, a small cable was attached and winched to the upper terminal, and then the 44mm wide steel track rope. It took many hours to get this 1000' track rope in place as it was not allowed to touch any other metal or the ground.

There are 40 tonne counterweights at each end of the cable to anchor it in place. The airtrams travel on this track rope and is operated with a 140 hp engine to drive the motor which moves the trams with a haul cable. There are two trams and they both move at the same time as they are both connected to the same cable.

July 20, 1971 was the first day of public transportation. At this time, there was not too much at the lower terminal for people to do. Of course the International Fishways were there, but no interpretive areas or souvenir stands. There was however, a small "Tiki-dog" shack as they called it where you could get a hotdog and a drink. One of the employees of the Department of Fisheries lived in a small house at the lower terminal. This land was purchased from fisheries and the house is now part of the prep kitchen in the Salmon House Restaurant. With only half a year to operate, the company still had an amazing 131,000 passengers. The most passengers in one year occurred in 1980 with 185,000 passengers. The total cost of the construction of the buildings and the installation of the tram was $1.5 million in 1971.

Today Hell's Gate Airtram is one of the main attractions for visitors who come to British Columbia. A scenic 2. hour drive from Vancouver and you enter the canyon at Yale, another 40 minutes driving along a steep canyon road and you will arrive at Hells Gate. If you prefer to see Hells Gate from the water and experience the canyon like few have, join us on one of our many guided jet boat tours through the scenic Fraser Canyon.