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The British Columbia Coast or BC Coast is Canadamarker's western continental coastline on the Pacific Oceanmarker. The usage is synonymous with the term West Coast of Canada.

In a sense excluding the urban Lower Mainlandmarker area adjacent to the Canada – United States border, which is considered "The Coast," the British Columbia Coast refers to one of British Columbiamarker's three main regions, the others being the Lower Mainlandmarker and The Interior.

The aerial distance from Victoriamarker on the Strait of Juan de Fucamarker to Stewart, British Columbiamarker on the Alaskamarker border at the head of the Portland Canalmarker is 965 km in length . However, because of its many deep inlets and complicated island shorelines—and 40,000 islands of varying sizes, including Vancouver Islandmarker and the Queen Charlotte Islandsmarker —the total length of the British Columbia Coast is over 25,725 km, making up about 10% of the Canadian coastline at 243,042 km. The coastline's geography, which is shared with the Alaska Panhandlemarker and adjoining parts of northwest Washingtonmarker, is most comparable to that of Norwaymarker and its heavily-indented coastline of fjords, a landscape also found in southern Chilemarker.

The dominant landforms of the BC Coast are the Insular Mountains, comprising most of Vancouver Islandmarker and the Queen Charlotte Islandsmarker, and the Coast Mountainsmarker, which extend beyond into Alaskamarker and the Yukonmarker.

The British Columbia Coast is mostly part of the Pacific temperate rain forests ecoregion as defined by the World Wildlife Fund. In the system used by Environment Canada, established by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), the area is defined as the Pacific Maritime Ecozone. In the geoclimatic zones system used by the British Columbia Ministry of Forests the bulk of the region comprises the Coastal Western Hemlock biogeoclimatic zone, although small areas flanking the Strait of Georgiamarker at the coast's southern extremity are classed in the Coastal Douglas-fir zone.

Major inlets

The great fjords of the British Columbia Coast rival those of Norwaymarker in length and depth but have even higher mountain scenery with a more alpine flavour. Many of the mountains offshore are much larger than those along the Norwegian coast, many large enough to have major fjords of their own, as well as their own mountain ranges. This is also of course even more true of the very large islands farther offshore, Vancouver Islandmarker and Grahammarker and Moresby Islandsmarker in the Queen Charlottesmarker, which together form the Insular Mountains, distinct from the Coast Mountainsmarker of the mainland.

Here are the most important fjords, inlets, straits and sound, including those important for reasons other than their size, listed south to north:

The many fjord-like waterways between the coast and the islands, and within the archipelago, cannot be fully listed here, and there are many more others that are not so much fjord-like as flooded valleys between what had been mountain peaks many thousands of years ago, when the shoreline was lower.

Major waterways

The waterway route through these islands between Vancouvermarker and Prince Rupert, and between Seattlemarker, Washingtonmarker, and Alaska, is known as the Inside Passage. It has played a role in U.S.-Canada relations more than once, from the Klondike Gold Rush to the Salmon War of the 1990s.

Major and important waterways are:

On Vancouver Island:

Major islands

The above list ends at the northern Strait of Georgiamarker, the last several forming a group known as the northern Gulf Islands. The southern Gulf Islands are as follows:

The Gulf Islandsmarker continue southeast across the Haro Straits as the San Juan Islandsmarker.

The islands of Howe Soundmarker are classed among the southern Gulf Islands, but they adjoin the mainland rather than Vancouver Island and are usually considered separately. They are:

The islands of the Fraser River estuary are:


Research from the 1990s has indicated that the Ice Age-era coastline of the British Columbia Coast was lower by about 100 metres. The effect of the waterlevel on the coastline was such that the Queen Charlotte Strait, which is between Haida Gwaii and the northern end of Vancouver Island, was a coastal plain, as were all the straits inland from it, except for those that were mountain valleys. Underwater archaeology has shown the presence of permanent human habitation and other activity at the 100 metre contour, and the Ice Age existence of such a coastal plain has put a new light on Ice Age populations in North America as well as on the strong likelihood of this area having been the major migration route from (and perhaps to) Asia.

The heavy indentation and mild climate of the British Columbia Coast have led to inevitable comparisons with the geography's predisposition to encouraging increased human settlement and movement as well as cultural foment and population growth in the Aegean, the Irish Sea/Hebrides and in the Danish Archipelago and adjoining Scandinavian coasts. The natural fecundity of the environment—rich in seafood, game and greenery—combined with the ease of travel (by water) is seen in all cases (British Columbia, Denmarkmarker, Greecemarker) to have generated a dynamic and gifted civilization. And there are comparisons to be made between the artistic and political and social level of the Pacific Northwest Peoples and those of pre-Conversion pagan Scandinavia, Irelandmarker and Archaic-Era Greece.


The fishery of the Pacific Northwest Coast is legendary, especially for its many salmon runs and the cultures that built on top of them throughout the region. Salmon runs have greatly diminished since pre-Contact years and the adventu of commercial canning and, ultimately, depletion of stocks by high-seas fishing. Inroads by salmon farming are held to jeopardize the remaining wild stocks.

Other commercial fisheries include halibut, herring and herring roe, sea urchin and other specialty sushis, hake, haddock, cod, crab and shellfish.

Shipping, ferries, and sailing

Scheduled Passenger Services operating on the British Columbia Coast are dominated by BC Ferries and Alaska State Ferries.

BC Ferries, a privately-managed Crown Corporation, operates major daily sailings between the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island via three routes: Horseshoe Baymarker to Departure Baymarker, Tsawwassen, British Columbiamarker to Swartz Bay, British Columbiamarker, and Duke Point, British Columbiamarker to Tsawwassenmarker.

Dozens of smaller ferries ply lesser routes between the Gulf Islands and the mainland or Vancouver Island as well as on various lakes in the Interior where no bridges exist. Other runs connect Horseshoe Bay to the Sunshine Coastmarker and Bowen Islandmarker and the lower Sunshine Coast to the Powell Rivermarker section of that coast farther northwest. From there, a ferry operates to Comoxmarker.

BC Ferries also operates a sailing from Prince Rupert to Massetmarker on Haida Gwaii as well as a major Inside Passage routing from Port Hardy on northern Vancouver Island to Prince Rupert and, in summer season, from Port Hardy to Bella Coola via several smaller coastal communities in between.

Alaska State Ferries operates regular sailings from Bellingham, Washingtonmarker to Ketchikanmarker, Wrangellmarker, Sitkamarker, Juneaumarker, Skagwaymarker, Hainesmarker and lesser ports-of-call in the Alaska Panhandlemarker. Alaska State Ferries also operates a vessel from Prince Rupertmarker to Ketchikan and other Panhandle ports.

Other scheduled passenger services are run by various small shipping and water-taxi companies.

Non-scheduled passenger services include all major cruise lines and various small luxury craft harters, as well as shuttles to and from the various coastal resorts.

The Port of Vancouver is the largest commercial shipping port the in Pacific Northwest and Canadamarkerand is the largest on the West Coast of North America by metric tons of total cargo with 76.5 million metric tons "World Port Rankings - 2005" - Port Industry Statistics - American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) - Updated May 1, 2007 - (Microsoft Excel *.XLS document) and is the fifth largest port in North America overall. "North American Port Container Traffic - 2006" - Port Industry Statistics - American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) - Updated May 14, 2007 - (Adobe Acrobat *.PDF document)

Coastal communities

Resorts and fishing lodges

Coastal First Nations

Nations of the Alaska Panhandlemarker and Georgia Straitmarker-Puget Soundmarker are included as they are part of the same cultural and historical ecumene. Extinct peoples are not included.

Parks and preserves

  • Puget Sound-Strait of Juan de Fuca

See also


External links

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