Will the Bridge River Valley be B.C.'s next tourism hot spot?
The early morning sky above Tyaughton Lake is crystal clear as I climb inside the 1961 DeHaviland Beaver float plane and into the co-pilot's seat.
Pilot Dale Douglas climbs into the seat beside me, flips a couple of switches and fires up the plane's single-prop engine.
We taxi down the lake, picking up speed and lift off. It is then that I realize the plane is almost a decade older than I am. I cinch the seatbelt a bit tighter as we fly west up the Bridge River Valley.
From our bird's-eye view, the landscape is a drastic contrast ? the heavily glaciated Coast Mountains spread out on my left, while the dry, bare South Chilcotin Mountains fade away into the horizon on my right.
Douglas, owner of Tyax Air, is a Whistler resident who lives here most of the year operating his business. He still spends the winters in Whistler.
He says the area's burgeoning tourist industry is getting so busy that he actually needs the winters off for a little rest and relaxation.
Douglas has come here in search of opportunity and wide-open spaces and in the Bridge River Valley, where wilderness and adventure meet, he has found both.
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After driving over the Hurley River forest service road from Pemberton, I meet up with long-time resident Norm Gronskei for a tour of the Bridge River Valley.
Gronskei, who grew up here, tells me about how the valley has changed since two B.C. Hydro dams were built in the 1940s and ?50s. Two massive reservoirs ? stretching for more than 100 kilometres into the heart of the Coast Mountains ? now fill the valley bottom where the river used to flow.
There's a twinge of regret in his voice as we drive along the reservoirs and into Gold Bridge. A sign on the side of the road indicates the population of the town is 43.
In Gold Bridge, we hook up with Squamish-Lillooet Regional District director Russ Oakley and Bridge River Valley Economic Development Society officer Vivienne Ross and continue the tour.
Oakley and Ross are trying to kick-start the local economy through a number of initiatives, one of which is to attract more tourists to the area.
The SRLD and BRVEDS are currently working together to turn an abandoned property and its buildings into a new tourist centre. The Haylmore property, on the banks on Cadwallader Creek, was once home to the area's gold commissioner but has sat empty since his death in 1964.