Wells Gray’s History
Most of Wells Gray’s 20 waterfalls are accessible by trail or boat; some are only a short distance from the road. Wells Gray’s waterfalls are a result of volcanic action, glaciations, and erosion by water.
The dominant topography features volcanic plateaus, lava flows and deep canyons which are crowned by several peaks over 2,300m (7,546ft) high. The waterfalls, for which Wells Gray is famous, usually result from the interaction of volcanic eruptions and glacial activity. The best known is Helmcken Falls, the fourth highest waterfall in Canada, which plunges 141m (463ft) over the edge of one of these volcanic plateaus.
The Green Mountain viewing platform provides a panoramic view of the history of Wells Gray. Visible from there and from locations along the park’s road, trails, and lookouts are the volcanoes, uplifts, bends, cracks, and glacial sculpturing that form the core of Wells Gray’s 200 million year history.
As the North American continental plate drifts to the northwest, cracks called “faults” form in the Earth’s crust. Faults are a window into geological history. Some of the park’s larger faults are found in the Clearwater Valley.
Pyramid Mountain is a Tuya, a volcano that erupted under the ice when the valley was filled with glaciers. The broad, level area from which Pyramid Mountain rises—and on which you are standing—is the Murtle Plateau, created when the land between two faults dropped hundreds of metres. Subsequent lava flows covered the plateau through which the Murtle River and Helmcken Falls have carved a route.
When Wells Gray was a sea, 2900m high Garnet Peak (the highest mountain in the park) and the other Cariboo Mountains form the northern half of Wells Gray. They contain the oldest rocks in the park, some of which may have originated as ocean bottom sediments 1.2 billion years ago.
Beside its fascinating geological history, Helmcken Falls’ spectacular ice cone is just another reason to visit Wells Gray in winter. The waterfall has a vertical drop of 141m (463ft) without a break, ranked the fourth highest in Canada. In winter, the ice cone can reach as high as the half way of the falls. Giant icicles hanging down from the cliff under the falls are probably the scariest and most dangerous ice climbing destination in Canada. Helmcken Falls is the main tourist attraction for Wells Gray Park.
Read this article for Helmcken Falls trails info.