Come with me to the Khutzeymateen

If you have been fortunate enough to travel across, in and around this splendid country of ours, you will no doubt appreciate what vast and varied nooks there are to experience and explore. So many beautiful, and mercifully, untouched places.       

I don’t remember how or exactly when I first heard of the Khutzeymateen, but do know that I was immediately struck by the mere thought of it in that gutteral ‘someday’ kind of way.  I knew it was a park, a sanctuary of sorts and that it was not far, by Canadian standards, from my childhood neck of the woods. I knew too that it was all about the grizzlies and that I could not wait to see it. But wait I did.

I had always intended to get there when I lived up north but, as often happens, life got in the way and I never quite made it… until a couple of years ago. And, wow, was it worth the wait.

But why wait if you don’t have to? Come on. Come with me. Let’s go and visit the Khutzeymateen. 🌿

It is early; really early, thick, dense, June fog early, as I make my way, one step at a time, toward the Prince Rupert waterfront to catch the boat.

I had stayed the night before at my dear friend Patty’s place. Myself and another life long friend Lisa had rolled into town the night before for a long over due catch up. It was so good to see them.

Needless to say we talked well into the wee hours and morning came quickly. When it did though, I was ready. I woke up wide, stretched my bones and snuck out the door. With each step toward the docks, excitement began to build and butterflies set in. I had wanted to do this for so long.  The Khutz.  I was finally going to visit the Khutz. 

I reach the dock, find the boat and climb on board. I take my seat, sip my hot tea and settle in. I can finally have a good look around. It’s still misty, borderline rain.

I love a good northwest kind of day but do wonder if the weather will lift; if we will see bears today; if we might, by some chance, see cubs…it tis the season after all.

The boat’s engine begins to rumble and we slowly make our way out of the harbour.

After an hour or so on open ocean the engine slows. The force of the wake behind us catches the boat and carries it forward. We drift. The engine cuts to quiet and we move slowly into the first inlet. Binoculars ready, all warned not too talk, we idle forward. Very soon thereafter we see her — we see them. A female and cubs are on the beach. I can not believe my eyes. They continue, unfussed, to eat sea grass, to turn stones and to frolic… like young bears clearly do. I feel my throat constrict. True, unadulterated, natural beauty.

This photo is by Michelle Valberg

I hold my breath for fear of making any noise that might frighten them into the woods. We watch. We float. We are stunned speechless by their presence and then we have to move on. 

Each bend reveals grizzly after grizzled bear.  Young, old, male female, this is they, in their element.  Their natural home, doing what bears do best.  I learn that this class A park, aka sanctuary, is the most densely populated grizzly habitat in the country.

After a full day of observing these majestic creatures in their own environment, we slowly make our way back to Rupert. Whales surface on the right, seals lounge to the left and bald headed eagles guide us toward home. In typical northwest fashion, the skies have cleared and the sun has come out. Life is abundant.

The boat pulls up to its place at the dock. I climb out, take off my coat and stuff it in my pack. Full to the brim in ways that defy description, I head back up the hill to Patty’s. It has indeed been a day to remember. It has been a day I will never forget.  It has been a day with the bears of the Khutzeymateen🌿.

The Khutzeymateen Provincial Park [a.k.a. Khutzeymateen/K’tzim-a-deen Grizzly Bear Sanctuary] aka the Khutz, was established as the first area in Canada to be protected specifically for grizzly bears and their habitat. The topography is diverse, with rugged peaks towering to 2100 metres above a valley of wetlands, old growth temperate rainforests and a large river estuary.

Coast Tsimshian First Nations depend upon this area, as they have for thousands of years, as the source of their social, economic and cultural prosperity.  

This protected area is known internationally as Canada’s first Grizzly Bear sanctuary and is home to one of the highest concentrations of grizzly bears in Canada.  

For more information or to purchase the feature graphic contact

May there be many, many more such spaces preserved for all in future days.🌿