Itcha Ilgachuz Provincial Park

History

First Nations History: The South Carrier and Chilcotin Peoples have inhabited the area surrounding and within the Itcha Ilgachuz for centuries. These peoples historically led a nomadic lifestyle, travelling when necessary to find food and resources. This lifestyle is called the “seasonal round”, and is still practiced in a modified form by some native peoples today. The Itcha Ilgachuz was used by First Nations to hunt and trap animals such as beaver, caribou, moose, and martin, and to gather plants, roots, and obsidian in summer. Traditional fishing camps were also located in the area.To date, only one archaeological site has been identified near one of the obsidian quarries in the Itcha Ilgachuz.

Settlement History: Early in the 1900s, settlers gradually moved into the area via Bella Coola, and began setting up ranches in the park vicinity. In particular, the journey of Pan Phillips and Rich Hobson is documented in Hobson’s book Grass Beyond the Mountains. The Blackwater Trail, which passes between the two mountain ranges in the park, was used to carry supplies and cattle from the Home Ranch to and from Anahim Lake to be sold at cattle sales in Quesnel. The Home Ranch is still present today, and several supply routes are still evident in the area.

Conservation

Itcha Ilgachuz Provincial Park protects provincially significant caribou habitat as well as the northernmost occurrence of California bighorn sheep in North America. The landscape is unique in its variety of landforms, lakes, grassland, forest, and wetland habitat. The park also protects critical caribou calving and wintering areas. The Itcha Ilgachuz herd numbers are approximately 2000 and some of the highest calf recruitment rates in the province are found there.

Lichen communities are an important part of the caribou’s diet, and are very sensitive to disturbance. Trampling of the fragile lichen crust causes soil erosion, and lichens may take many years to reestablish.

Itcha Ilgachuz supports a unique grassland ecosystem located in the vicinity of Itcha Lake, dominated by Altai fescue and lichen communities. This type of grassland has not been observed anywhere else in central and southern BC. Plants in the area are part of the park's natural heritage. Please do not damage or remove them.

Itcha Ilgachuz Park protects extensive and diverse alpine and subalpine vegetation. Some of these dry alpine species are at the northernmost limit of their range, and some are arctic species at the southernmost limit of their range.

The Itcha and Ilgachuz Ranges are also surrounded by provincially significant salmonid spawning and rearing rivers. Though fish habitat is limited within the park by steep terrain, Itcha Lake does support populations of rainbow trout and bull trout, a blue-listed species.

Wildlife

Itcha Ilgachuz Provincial Park provides habitat for numerous wildlife species, including wolves, cougars, black bear, grizzly bear, mule deer, caribou, moose, mountain goat, and California bighorn sheep. The park protects extensive spring and summer habitat, and limited but critical winter habitat for the largest remaining woodland caribou population in southern British Columbia. The Caribou populations are vulnerable, and sensitive to human disturbance. The most northerly population of California bighorn sheep, and extensive summer and winter moose range are also found within the park. With binoculars, park visitors may be lucky enough to spot a mountain goat or golden eagle in the more rugged terrain.

Other furbearers include beaver, muskrat, coyote, marten, red fox, wolverine, river otter, bobcat, and lynx. The area’s wetland habitats also support waterfowl, game birds, songbirds, amphibians, and reptile.