Ft Nelson to Liard Hot Springs ~ 190 miles
Jul 6, 2007
|FRIDAY, JULY 6 - DAY 4 - TRAVEL DAY
FT. NELSON TO LIARD HOTSPRINGS- 190 miles
CAMPGROUND DESTINATION TONIGHT: LAIRD HOTSPRINGS LODGE
Directions -- On Alaska Highway at Milepost DC 477.8 on the left.
Milepost guide page 150
The Liard Hotsprings Lodge is our stop for the night. And, while here...experience and enjoy the natural spa of the Liard Hotspring's Provincial Park, directly across the Alaska Highway from the Lodge. These waters bubble from the ground at 130°F - 140°F year-round, cascading into deep pools in which to soak and swim. This wonderful experience is a 10 minute stroll from the Lodge along a wooden boardwalk that meanders through forest and across warm-water marshland to the famed and picturesque hot springs. Change rooms are provided for your convenience.
Enroute to the Liard River area you will pass through communities of the North and view thrilling scenery. You should also be blessed to see some wildlife, including caribou and stone sheep. We have been warned not to try to feed wildlife or stop ON the highway to take pictures. Shoulders and turnouts are best for taking that historical photo.
You'll pass through Steamboat on your trek north. Steamboat was a difficult area to travel during construction of the Alaska Highway. During that era many vehicles went off the road.
One of the highlights of this travel day will be the Summit Lake area. The peak behind Summit Lake is Mount St. George (elevation 7,419 feet) in the Stone Mountain Range. The highest elevation we'll travel over the Alaska Highway will be 4,250 feet.
At Historical Mile DC 404.6, Toad River might be a good stop. The Toad River Lodge is open year round and is known for its collection of hats (which number more than 6,600). Toad River is situated in a picturesque valley, which reaps a harvest of wildlife. Inquire at the lodge about good wildlife viewing locations nearby. This is a fun stop and a good place to eat if you're hungry.
Liard River Hot Springs is underlain by folded, faulted sedimentary rock overlaid by a veneer of glacial drift. The springs may be related to a major fault system which parallels the valley on the south side of the Liard River; however, the exact mechanism and source of the hot springs are unknown. It is believed that ground water following gravity seeps down through the folded, faulted sedimentary rock of the Liard Plateau down towards the earths core. The groundwater, heated and pressurized by hot gases deep underground, strips minerals from the rocks and is forced back to the surface along natural faults to emerge as a thermal spring. As the hot springs water bubbles from the earth it reacts with air and certain minerals are deposited. Calcium carbonate is one of the minerals that precipitates to form tufa. Tufa forms the terraced base of the Hanging Gardens. About eight pools make up the hot springs complex in the park.
Unlike most other thermal springs in Canada, Liard River Hot Springs does not flow directly into a nearby river or creek, but into an intricate system of swamps. These warm swamps are the most unique feature of the park; these swamps create a micro climate allowing a unique vegetative community to thrive here.
The warm water swamps although being extremely shallow never freeze in winter due to the continual inflow of warm water. The vegetation here is very interesting and often overlooked. Aquatic plants include the bladderworts, butterwort and sundews which are all carniverous plants. The carniverous plants are likely due to the low nitrogen content of the spring water. Several species of orchids and the uncommon Kalms lobelia (Lobelia kalmii) are found on tufa islands. Successional meadows supporting cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa) shrubs occur in previously wet swampy areas.
There are several plant communities in the park that exhibit thermal effects. The pools themselves create a rich environment for growth. Ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris) gives the springs a tropical look as well as cow parsnip (Heracleum lanatum) that grows to extremely tall heights. Thermally influenced species that thrive near the spring include black snakeroot (Sanicula marililanda), Lyall's nettle (Urtica lyallii) and yellow monkey flower (Mimulus guttatus).
Dawn came early this morning. Socks and I went out at 6 AM to do his thing. Since we had a short drive day, we ate a light breakfast. We knew we were going to stop at Toad River Restaurant around 11 AM.
The scenery was awesome as we passed several lakes and drove along and down into a huge canyon formed by two parallel mountain ridges. At the bottom was an ever increasingly big river.
We crossed a number of bridges, ran through patches of loose gravel and could travel at speeds of 35-55 mph for most of the way, due to the winding and hilly roadbed.
We were wondering if we'd ever see any wildlife along the way. Early on, we saw a black bear foraging along the highway. Unfortunately, I saw him as I drove by and couldn't stop to take a photo. There are no shoulders. You have to use turnouts spaced every so many miles to let faster vehicles pass or to take a break. Later on, we saw a mom and baby Moose, a small herd of rock sheep on and off the pavement and finally a small herd of bison off the road.
As we approached Muncho Lake, it started to rain. It rained all the way to the RV Park. We were told that their water had been contaminated and was undrinkable. So we are hooked up to electricity only and drinking bottled water.
We may go across the highway to sit in the thermal hot spring pools. I'm first going to lay on my heating pad to loosen the knots in my shoulder from the drive.
We have no TV or wireless access here. So we talk and read tonight, again.