An aerial view of Heiltsuk Territory in the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada

Over Cunningham Island

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The Great Bear Rainforest


The Great Bear Rainforest is located on the British Columbia coast, along the fabled 'Inside Passage' route to Alaska. Known by some as 'Canada’s Amazon', this remote and little visited Shangri-La is considered the largest intact temperate rainforest on the planet.


This partially protected ecological wonderland hosts a cluster of ancient First Nations communities and a medley of majestic species from 1,000 year-old cedars, to humpback whales, grizzlies, salmon and the iconic white “Spirit Bear”. It's an area roughly the size of Ireland and its timberlands contain more biomass than any other jungle or wilderness on earth.


The Great Bear Rainforest is as much a maritime entity as it is a terrestrial one. No abrupt division exists between land and sea. Both overlap harmoniously, each providing for the other. Rain coming off the ocean sustains the forest. Nutrients from the forest floor, in turn, trickle into the sea, feeding aquatic life ranging from phytoplankton to whales. The five major Pacific salmon species return to the region's rivers to spawn, and are hunted by birds and land mammals, who in turn deposit their carcasses in the forest, which act as fertilizer.


In an environment so delicate, the encroachment of the outside world with its engines of consumption, set off a period of confrontation that continues to this day. In the 1990s, environmental groups launched a campaign to stop wanton deforestation, which they insisted was destroying watersheds and endangering salmon populations. By 2006, after much lobbying, conservancy designations were announced for over 30% of the 'Great Bear Rainforest' – bringing into popular usage the name coined by conservationists. A subsequent deal in 2016 brought various levels of protection to up to 85% of the area.


Environmentalists maintain that these deals fall short of what is needed to properly protect the area. 


The largest issue of contention surrounds the proposed pipeline and tanker projects slated for the area. If completed, those projects would see supertankers carrying liquified natural gas and bitumen condensate from the ports in and around Kitimat, through the treacherously narrow channels of the Great Bear Rainforest. An accident and spill, which residents say is inevitable, would deal a crippling blow not only to the region, but to an ancient culture and way of life.

A grizzly sow and three cubs in the Great Bear Rainforest, Canada.

Grizzly Sow and Cubs, Southern Great Bear Rainforest

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A misty hillside in the Great Bear Rainforest, Canada.
A Nuxalk carver and his dog in Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada.

Nuxalk Carver, Bella Coola

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Burnett Beach on British Columbia's Central Coast, Canada.
Burnett Beach
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The Maple Leaf schooner sailing in the Gardner Canal, British Columbia, Canada.
'Maple Leaf' Schooner, Gardner Canal
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Orcas in the Great Bear Sea near Klemtu, British Columbia, Canada.

Orcas off Price Island

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Coastal scene near Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada.
A humpback whale sky-hopping near Klemtu, British Columbia, Canada

Humpback whale, skyhopping, off Sarah Island

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A First Nations potlatch in Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada.

Heiltsuk Potlatch, Bella Bella

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Troup Narrows near Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada.

Troup Narrows, Chatsfield Island

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Rock art in the Great Bear Rainforest, near the village of Klemtu, British Columbia, Canada.

Princess Royal Island

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Trees and mist in Roscoe Inlet near Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada.

Roscoe Inlet

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Close up of fern leaves in the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada.
Fjords and mist in Roscoe Inlet near Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada.

Roscoe Inlet

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A tiny crab on a beach in Kitasoo Bay near Klemtu, British Columbia, Canada.

Kitasoo Bay, Swindle Island

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A person fishing in Kitasoo Bay near Klemtu, British Columbia, Canada.

Kitasoo-Bay, Swindle Island

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A man stands below old growth red cedars near Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada.

Walker Island, Bella Coola

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An aerial view of Spiller Channel in the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada.

Spiller Channel

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An old shack in a mountain meadow near Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada.

Bella Coola Valley

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A First Nations man in Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada.

Bella Coola

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Ancient petroglyphs at Thorsen Creek near Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada.

Petroglyphs, Bella Coola

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The Bella Coola River in British Columbia, Canada.

Bella Coola River

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Coastal temperate rainforest near Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada.

Campbell Island

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A bald eagle flying through the air in British Columbia, Canada.
McLoughlin Lake near Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada.

McLoughlin Lake, Campbell Island

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A First Nations totem pole in Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada.

Bella Coola

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A boat in Fitz Hugh Sound near Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada.

Fitz Hugh Sound

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A humpback whale coming out of the water in British Columbia, Canada.

Hakai Pass

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The mouth of the Koeye River in British Columbia, Canada.

Mouth of the Koeye River

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A woman living in the abandoned cannery town of Namu, British Columbia, Canada.

Namu

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Colourful starfish in the intertidal zone of the Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia, Canada.

Intertidal Zone

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A man standing at a river mouth near the Kitlope, British Columbia, Canada.
Kowesas River Estuary
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A man holding a tiny frog in his hand near Ocean Falls, British Columbia, Canada.

Ikt Lake

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An abandoned building covered in moss in Ocean Falls, British Columbia, Canada.

Ocean Falls

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Temperate rainforest near Ocean Falls, British Columbia, Canada.

Martin River Valley

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An elderly resident of Ocean Falls, British Columbia, Canada.

"Nearly Normal" Norman Brown

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The old pulp-and-paper mill town of Ocean Falls in British Columbia, Canada.

Ocean Falls

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An old moss-covered trail near Ocean Falls, British Columbia, Canada.

Martin River Valley

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Mountains and mist reflected in a lake near Ocean Falls, British Columbia, Canada.

Mokst Lake

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A member of the Coastal Guardian Watchmen on his boat in Wuikinuxv, British Columbia, Canada.

Coastal Guardian Watchman, Owikeeno Lake

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Two women standing next to a giant red cedar near Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada.

Big Cedar Tree Recreation Site, Larso Bay

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Mountains and forest reflected in Beales Lagoon, in the Great Bear Rainforest, near Bella Bella, British Columbia, Canada.
Beales Lagoon
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A Nuxalk First Nation man walking along a trail near Bella Coola, British Columbia, Canada.

Piisla, Bella Coola Valley

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Mist and mountains on King Island, British Columbia, Canada.

King Island

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A pink salmon jumps through rapids in the Great Bear Rainforest near Klemtu, British Columbia, Canada.

Pink Salmon, Princess Royal Island

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A lichen covered old growth forest near Klemtu, British Columbia, Canada.

Princess Royal Island

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A black bear catching a salmon in the Great Bear Rainforest near Klemtu, British Columbia, Canada
An aerial view above Smith Inlet, British Columbia, Canada.

Smith Inlet

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A home in the village of Wuikinuxv in British Columbia, Canada.

Wuikinuxv

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An aerial view over Rivers Inlet in British Columbia, Canada.

Near Rivers Inlet

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A humpback whale breaching near Klemtu, British Columbia, Canada.

Humpback breaching

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Children ride their bikes on a gravel road in the village of Wuikinuxv, British Columbia, Canada.

Wuikinuxv

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An aerial view of Rivers Inlet near the village of Wukinuxv, British Columbia, Canada.

Rivers Inlet

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